A Wet and Great Stampede!

Yes, it was the wettest ten days I can remember in my 30+ years of volunteering (and in fact I now hear it was the rainiest 10 days since 1927), but definitely a lot of bright spots and great memories from the 2016 Stampede:

1. Pre-Stampede, on Wednesday, July 6 and Thursday, July 7, I was very busy with large and in some cases record crowds at the CBC Breakfast, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Parade, Tourism Calgary First Flip, the Field Law and Miles Davison LLP parties and Parade committee kick off BBQ. No question from those events that the city was very much looking forward to celebrating Stampede this year.

David Gray, host of the Eyeopener on CBC Radio (L) interviewing Codey McCurrach, chuckwagon driver (R) at the CBC Breakfast

David Gray, host of the Eyeopener on CBC Radio (L) interviewing Codey McCurrach, chuckwagon driver, (R) at the CBC Breakfast

Pancakes being flipped at the First Flip breakfast hosted by Tourism Calgary

Pancakes being flipped at the First Flip breakfast hosted by Tourism Calgary

2. Parade Day is always special and I never take for granted the thrill of being on horseback riding along the downtown parade route in front of hundreds of thousands of cheering spectators. Parade Marshals PB&J (Paul Brandt and Jann Arden) were great ambassadors for Calgary and the walking entry of about 100 representatives from the various Fort McMurray agencies involved with the emergency first response, re-location and re-settlement of that city received a huge and well deserved show of appreciation.

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Waving hello atop of Pa – the horse I rode this year from the Stampede Ranch

3. The Stampede Rodeo was great all week (even during the downpour on Finals Sunday, which I would argue just made it that much more challenging and exciting). Barrel Racer Mary Burger became an instant Stampede hit during the first go around and then continued to win over hearts and fans by pulling in the big prize on Sunday. Getting to award announcer Ron MacLean his own bronze for his 25 years of involvement with the Stampede Rodeo was also a very special moment for me.

Ron and Bill

Ron with his bronze and me

4. More often than not, the GMC Rangeland Derby and Evening Show faced the wettest moments of each day. The track held up magnificently and kudos to all the drivers for night after night of exciting and safe racing. The TransAlta Grandstand Show was one of the best I can recall and was designed in such a manner that “the show could go on” each night notwithstanding the weather. Great job by Dave Pierce, the Grandstand committee and all others involved in producing and putting on this show.

Exciting finish to one of the chuckwagon races

Exciting finish to one of the chuckwagon races

The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede performing in the Grandstand Show incorporating water in the show

The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede performing in the 2016 Grandstand Show incorporating water in the show

5. The Stampede is a great place to see, meet and host people and that includes politicians from all levels of Government. His Worship Mayor Nenshi rode in the Parade and then to his credit attended every community event in the city, or so it seemed. Premier Notley also rode in the Parade and she and many of her cabinet and MLAs attended many Stampede events on Stampede Park. We even had Justin Trudeau and his daughter Ella-Grace on Stampede Park for a few hours on Friday, July 15 (though as you can see from the attached below, even our Prime Minister was not spared the rain). PM visit 6. Beautiful Enmax Park and the new home of Indian Village was a hit with our guests and one can only imagine how popular that area of Stampede Park will become in future years with better weather. Photo Credit: Bill Marsh / Calgary Stampede 7. The main Midway attractions (Dog Bowl, Peking Acrobats and Bell Adrenaline Ranch) all received deservedly rave reviews. The Agriculture programming was also outstanding and saw big crowds for Cowboy Up, Stock Dogs, Heavy Horse Pull, Steer Classic and all the exhibits in Agrium Western Event Centre, such as the Cattle Trail and many others.

The Canine Stars at the Dog Bowl

The Canine Stars performed incredible tricks at the Dog Bowl

Heavy Horse Show in the Scotiabank Saddledome

Big crowds came out to watch the Heavy Horse Show in the Scotiabank Saddledome

8. By far the most enjoyable moments for me throughout the ten days was hand out the President’s Certificate of Appreciation to surprised long term Stampede volunteers all over Stampede Park. Such a privilege to honour so many deserving people who have given so much to Stampede and to their respective committees. Many thanks to Jennifer Jenson and Shane Ellis for taking care of all the logistics and making this work with my crazy busy Stampede schedule.

One of the recipients of the awards - Jill Cross.

One of the recipients of the awards – Jill Cross.

Thanks to all of you for what you do for Stampede. Hope all the employees and volunteers of the Calgary Stampede have a great and relaxing (and warm and dry) rest of the summer. You all deserve that. Bill

2016 Rodeo Highlights – Day 10

Showdown Sunday held true to the uncharacteristically wet year at the Calgary Stampede. But nothing could cloud the radiant grins from the latest crop of $100,000 Rodeo Champions.

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The maple leafs were flying when Zeke Thurston made it two years in a row to win the saddle bronc riding. It was familiar ground for the cowboy from Big Valley, with the only difference being this year’s rainy weather.

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2016 Rodeo Highlights – Day 9

Saturday turned into quite a family affair at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo. The odds are always high when it comes to being among the best two out of the twelve contenders to earn a spot to Showdown Sunday. But it proved to be all ‘relative’ this year.

In the saddle bronc riding, the Cajuns were hot. Brothers Heath and Cody DeMoss rose to the top of the heap. Cody was 87 points on Calgary’s Simply Marvellous, while younger brother Heath was only two points behind at 85 for his trip on Evening Mist. That led to a very special victory lap for the two Louisana cowboys, including what looked like a little brotherly horse race during the victory lap.

DeMoss Brothers 9

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2016 Rodeo Highlights – Day 8

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There’s nothing like a little moisture and mud to test cowboy determination, for rodeo contestants and even the visiting Prime Minister! Friday provided those conditions at the Calgary Stampede, just when Pool B contestants needed to bear down and secure their spot for Showdown Sunday.

But the rain stopped as the rodeo began and fans loved the mud, especially in the steer wrestling, where there was no choice but to get dirty.

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2016 Rodeo Highlights – Day 7

Cory Solomon 7

It’s not every day you can make a slip and still come out a winner.

But Cory Solomon is on a roll at the Calgary Stampede, and not even a slight bobble slowed him down. The 2012 Stampede tie-down roping champion came out Thursday afternoon like a shot, and was making his tie before you could even blink. He was poised to be as fast, or faster, than his speedy 6.7 second run Wednesday, which topped the round.

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2016 Rodeo Highlights – Day 6

Nancy Csabay 6

Winning a go-round at the Calgary Stampede is a special deal. Not only is it worth $5500 in the bank, but it also includes an introduction on the stage and a Stampede bronze.

That wasn’t necessarily part of barrel racer Nancy Csabay’s game plan, but when it happened on Day 6 of the Stampede, the Taber cowgirl was as thrilled as could be.

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Calgary Stampede Novice program recognizes first winner of 2016!

A young cowboy from Siksika Nation captured a big win with a great ride, and the crowd’s hearts with a great interview yesterday in the Tier 2 division Jr. Steer Riding.

Ian Big Tobacco was the first winner to be crowned on stage at this year’s Calgary Stampede with his first ever Stampede victory.

Ian

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9 things I learned at Rodeo 101

Ok you guys, there are a lot of misconceptions about Rodeo out there. And I’m no expert. So this morning I made my way over to the Northern Lights Arena for Rodeo 101. You can catch the next edition tomorrow, Sunday, July 10 at 11 a.m. in the same location. Here’s a few things I’d like to share:

1. There’s a myth out there that the horses and bulls that compete in the rodeo live hard lives. In reality, these animals have it pretty good. For most the year, they live in a green pasture as a natural herd. They are well fed and card for. It’s important to keep in mind that these animals are bred and trained to be athletes. Their health and welfare is always top of mind. Learn more about life of bucking horses in this video.

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Riding high in Houston with the Calgary Stampede

Canadian saddle bronc competitor Clay Elliott wasn’t too sure just how to react after his big Rodeo Houston win on one of the Calgary Stampede’s top horses.

“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” Elliott told local media. “I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with $50,000.”

The Nanton, Alberta cowboy scored the huge paycheck by winning a ride-off in the finals on board Stampede Warrior. It was one of many notable performances by Calgary Stampede horses at the Livestock Show and Rodeo in Houston, Texas. In total, Stampede horses competed 84 times in front of 1.3 million attendees over the course of 21 performances. And they definitely caught the attention of the cowboys and the crowd, as they do year after year.

Stampede Warrior competing at Rodeo Houston in 2014

Stampede Warrior competing at Rodeo Houston in 2014

“They captured an incredible 14 go-round wins and more than $110,000 in prize money in Houston,” says Robert Wise, director of Western Events & Agriculture for the Calgary Stampede. The highest marked ride of the rodeo was given to Austin Foss, who scored 91 points on the Reserve World Champion, Calgary Stampede’s Special Delivery. Continue reading

Small Spurs, Huge Futures

They may wear some small spurs for now but rodeo in southern Alberta has a big future. The Small Spurs Rodeo in Claresholm, Alberta gives tomorrow’s stars of rodeo a place to develop their skills.

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Since Dusty and Travis Whiteside created the program it has taken off and today there are more than 400 entries on a given weekend for the rodeos. Kids ages 14 and under have a chance to test their skills in events like barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying and even steer riding.

Today’s organizers, Ty and Hayley Elliot and Matt and Janessa McNichol, spend countless hours organizing and preparing as well as running each of the rodeos held over the winter months. Thanks to their dedication and hard work and the support of corporate partners like the Calgary Stampede, hundreds of kids have an opportunity to get involved in the sport of rodeo.

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On March 11-12, the Small Spurs held their annual season finals and what an exciting way to cap off their season. The Calgary Stampede is one of the leading supporters of the program and along with contributions from many great corporate partners, there were more than 100 prizes handed out to the champions on the weekend.

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Ty Elliot   is a former Canadian Finals Bull Rider who now focuses on developing the next generation of rodeo. He recognizes the lack of interest in the rough stock events and hopes that organizations like Small Spurs will help to revitalize the rough stock end of the arena.

“The kids need a place to try it out where the animals match their skill level,” said Ty as he explained how each kid is split into the A, B and C pools according to their size and experience. This is a great way to ensure that the kids will be able to ride an animal that suits their ability. The formula seems to be working and with more than 20 steer riders each weekend, the talent pool seems to be growing at the Small Spurs.

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The steer riders treated their fans and sponsors to a special performance this past Friday and I was lucky enough to be a part of it, helping organize the event for the evening. Some of the stars of the sport were on hand to help out the riders such as former Canadian Champions Matt Lait and Wes Cyr. Stampede’s own rodeo announcer Dave Poulsen called the show alongside Mike Labelle and music director Ted Stovin. Multiple-time Rodeo Entertainer of the Year, Dennis Halstead, kept everyone laughing.

Coupled with great music, some fire in the dirt and a massive replay screen, the Small Spurs Rodeo was much like watching a miniature version of the PBR bull ridings and the kids rose to the occasion, riding over half of their animals and Cranbrook cowboy Lonnie Phillips came up with high score of 86 points. There were some very excited little cowboys walking away with some great hardware and some big plans of where their talents will take them next. Hopefully most are considering this summer’s Stampede Rodeo as one of their tour stops.

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Saturday’s events brought more great action from the timed event competitors and many more great moments as the rest of the 100 prizes were doled out to the event champions in many age categories. Dennis Halstead was still on hand and said that he is very fortunate to be a part of such a great event and a great organization. All of the personnel and helping hands are volunteers and they truly do a fantastic job creating a rodeo that would impress even the most seasoned of fans. The rodeo industry is alive and well in Claresholm and with the continued support of organizations like the Calgary Stampede we can rest easy knowing that rodeo will have stars well into the future. If you ever get a chance be sure to slip down to Claresholm and cheer on the big hearts that wear the “small spurs.”