Stampede employees train for emergency flood preparedness

On June 21, 2013, southern Alberta was forever changed as the largest flood to date washed through, destroying much that stood in its path. The Calgary Stampede’s blue bridge was washed away, the Infield tunnel and Indian Village were submerged, and buildings across Stampede Park were flooded. Though the results were devastating, the Stampede witnessed that the spirit of the city couldn’t be washed away.

Immediately following the flood, the Stampede took numerous measures to protect and build resiliency for Stampede Park. From 2013 to 2014, the Stampede gathered all information possible on the flood, implemented new flood-resilient design features on Stampede Park, updated their Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and created a step-by-step outline document of how to handle flood situations. From the time the SOP was updated three years ago, Stampede employees have participated in live flood exercises annually.

“After exercises like this, we really feel more prepared,” said Calgary Stampede assets manager, park & facility services, Brian Hanley, referring to the emergency preparedness day Stampede employees took part in on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

Almost 50 Park & Facility services employees, including carpenters, plumbers, electricians, general labourers, administrative employees and team leads, participated in a practice live scenario for flood recovery on Stampede Park. “It took a lot of time, personnel and collaboration to bring the day together,” continued Hanley, “but the time spent preparing for the day, participating in the activities and regrouping afterwards was highly valuable.”

Flood Carts

Six prepared flood carts

Simultaneously, key members of the Stampede gathered for a tabletop exercise[1] of the same 1-100 level flood scenario. “This isn’t a one department or small group response.  An event of this scope and scale –which has the potential to cause significant negative impact to our operation-, requires an ‘all hand’s on-deck’ approach,” described Paul Burrows, security services manager, who oversees the Stampede’s Corporate Response & Resiliency Program (CRRP).

Stampede leaders from all departments across Stampede Park, from communications, people services, business services, sales & event management, security, parking, food & beverage, and more, discussed a play-by-play of what each department’s role would be during the 1-100 level flood scenario. These key crisis management employees discussed what to do as flood severity escalates. “Each business unit has a role. Whether it’s providing support for the initial response or assisting with the recovery and business continuity phase, everyone plays an important part,” added Burrows.

Burrows leading the tabletop exercise

Burrows leading the tabletop exercise

The same was true for the live exercise. “There are so many parts to practice, so every year we practise different tasks with different employees,” Hanley explained. “Our overarching goal is for everyone, no matter their job description, to be able to jump in and know exactly how to handle the situation.” This year, the Park & Facility Services employees practiced six of the approximately 25 measures outlined in the flood emergency preparedness procedure document.

One of the six tasks for 2017 was lowering the railings of the Stampede’s newest bridge, which replaced a bridge that was washed away in the 2013 flood. “This task was especially intriguing for our employees as this year was the first time we practised lowering the rails.” The new bridge was built specially with numerous flood resiliency features in mind. Lowering the rails will allow for water to flow smoothly over the bridge instead of being blocked and creating a dam situation. The employees also practiced removing the benches and planters along the bridge because in flood situations these items could cause damage or create blockages if the river carried them away.

Railings successfully lowered on the Stampede’s newest bridge

Railings successfully lowered on the Stampede’s newest bridge

Also in ENMAX Park and new for this year, the live exercise employees practised removing the panels from Sweetgrass Lodge. “They look like walls but are actually 4’x7’ panels,” described Hanley. Removing the panelled-walls of the stage area will allow for water to pass through smoothly and not create a blockage or dam.

The remaining of the exercises varied from staging flood carts, which are supplies transported to essential areas across Stampede Park, practising sandbagging doors to keep water out, activating sluice gates to keep water from coming up manholes, and fighting water with water. “We fill these large tubes with water and when they’re expanded they’re about three feet high and very durable. They can stop water in its path” said Hanley.

A washroom door sandbagged in ENMAX Park

A washroom door sandbagged in ENMAX Park

 

Stampede employees activating an E09 Sluice Gate

Stampede employees activating an E09 Sluice Gate

“After the live exercises are finished, we sit down and go over the day – and that’s when we really realize the small things that make the big differences,” Hanley continued. The same conclusion was found from Burrow’s tabletop exercise. “Even something as seemingly small as ‘gathering phone chargers’ is on our emergency preparedness list,” said Burrows. “And though people may chuckle at first, communication is essential in times of emergency so this small task is actually extremely essential.”

Feeling confident from the flood emergency preparedness day, Stampede employees are ready to take on the weather this year.

 

 

[1] Tabletop exercises have always been an annual tradition for the Stampede and cover a wide range of emergency situation topics. The flood tabletop is just one the larger series of emergency topics the CRRP covers.

 

Introducing Calgary Stampede’s newest board members

On March 21, 2017, the Calgary Stampede’s shareholders elected three new directors to the Stampede board: Elizabeth Burke-Gaffney, Dave Lantz and Stuart O’Connor. The board further approved the appointments of three additional directors: Lesley Conway, Greg Kwong and Cindy Provost. The biographies for all of these new directors can be found below.

The Stampede’s board is currently comprised of 20 shareholder-elected directors, four government-appointed directors and five board-approved externally-appointed directors. The externally-appointed directors from the larger Calgary community provide the board with supplementary expertise from specific business sectors that are key to supporting the strength of the Stampede’s leadership in light of the organization’s Master Plan and Strategic Plan initiatives and developments.

David Sibbald, president & chairman of the board, commented on the newly appointed board members, saying ”Lesley, Greg and Cindy will bring tremendous expertise to the board as we move forward with plans to expand the BMO Convention Centre and our youth education platform. They are leaders in Calgary and lend to the Stampede a broader perspective and representation from our community.”

Warren Connell, chief executive officer, added “These individuals understand where the Stampede is going and are passionate about helping us get there.”

The Stampede congratulates the six new directors on their elections and appointments and looks forward to the support of their leadership as the organization drives toward furthering its vision to create a world-class year-round gathering place for the community.

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Building on our past, looking to the future – Agriculture at the Calgary Stampede

For ten days in July, Stampede Park in downtown Calgary is a whirl of colour and sound, with ferris wheels and fireworks, mini donuts and midway games. But at its heart, as they always have been, are animals and agriculture.

The 10-day festival, which hosts more than one million visitors from across Canada and around the world, is a celebration of community spirit and western traditions. It encourages visitors from all over the globe to put on some boots, and make a connection to Western Canada’s rural roots.

“The Calgary Stampede is one of the few places left in the world that still celebrates agriculture. We make it a commitment to introduce the urban population to the rural population,” says Stampede president & chairman of the board, Dave Sibbald. A local rancher whose family has been part of the Stampede for many generations, Sibbald is passionate about keeping the connection to agriculture alive. “It’s never been more crucial than it is today as the urban population becomes further and further removed.”

David Sibbald (L) with his family

David Sibbald (L) with his family

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Sibbald and two of his horses

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Stampede’s Annual General Meeting has positive outlook for 2017

“I am happy to tell you that the organization is in a solid financial position—yes even after a very rainy Stampede,” Warren Connell, chief executive officer of the Calgary Stampede, shared at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Stampede Park, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. Almost 1,000 shareholders were in attendance at the meeting and listened as Connell recapped highlights from 2016 and insight into 2017 and beyond.

Crowd

Connell continued by sharing, “Calgary is in the midst of a transformation. Culturally, the city has changed tremendously over the past decade, so to remain relevant the Stampede’s brand values need to continue to align with the values of Calgarians and Albertans. We need to continue to be out in our community listening and reacting to what our community has to say,” he stated as he spoke to the Stampede’s 2016-2018 Strategic Plan.

Connell pointed to how the Stampede tried something new during the 2016 Stampede by providing free admission on the final Sunday, as well as special $5 admission prices at pop-up events earlier in the week. Connell also alluded to similar surprises for Stampede 2017, to be announced to the public in the coming months. Continue reading

Meet the rookies!

Introducing Dustin Gorst and Cody Ridsdale; both chuckwagon drivers will be competing for the very first time in Calgary this Stampede 2017.

Dustin Gorst

For years he has raced the Calgary Stampede track; holding steady until the klaxon blared, then leaping fearlessly onto the back of an already flying, high-powered thoroughbred.

Dustin 1

As an outrider, Dustin Gorst is a veteran competitor at the Stampede. He has also driven the track as the demonstration driver. But for the first time in 2017, Gorst will be among the 36 drivers guiding their thundering teams around the track in pursuit of the championship and a share of more than $1.15 million in prize money. It is a sport that’s in his blood. Continue reading

Calgary Stampede History Moments Presents: Bert Smith in Memoriam

Bert Smith, Cowboys herding cattle across river in the Prairies, c. 1960. Courtesy of the Museum of the Highwood MH.006.002.165

Bert Smith, Cowboys herding cattle across river in the Prairies, c. 1960. Courtesy of the Museum of the Highwood MH.006.002.165

Noted western artist Bert Smith passed away on February 17, 2017. Smith’s artwork captures the real feel of the western way of life.

Bert Smith featured here on the right. The picture was taken in 1960 in photographer Gil Garon’s (centre) studio in High River. Courtesy of the Museum of the Highwood.

Bert Smith featured here on the right. The picture was taken in 1960 in photographer Gil Garon’s (centre) studio in High River. Courtesy of the Museum of the Highwood.

Many of Bert Smith’s paintings and sketches illuminate the book Just About Nothing, which was written by Bert Sheppard, the long-time OH Ranch manager and later owner. Sheppard included a passage about Smith:

“Bert was born at Mutrie Saskatchewan on Feb. 24, 1929, and went to school at Philomath. At an early age he became interested in photography, and later took a correspondence course in art from Washington D.C. Bert worked as a commercial artist in Montreal for one and a half years. He then did art work for Ken Coppock who was secretary for the Western Stock Growers Association, and manager of their ranch supplies department. It was there that I met Bert Smith. On New Year’s Day he arrived at the TL (connected) Ranch to spend three days visit, and stayed three years. It was quite apparent that he had exceptional ability as an artist and photographer. To gain additional ranch experience he was at Joe Bew’s [sic] Y Cross Ranch, The Chattaway Bar S Ranch and the Blades [sic] Rocker P [sic]. It was there while helping to move a large herd of cattle to summer range that he suffered an aneurysm, which ended his art career. He retired to Longview where he now resides. He spends a good deal of his time tutoring the small fry in the preliminary stages of art.”[1] Continue reading

Stampede team volunteers for The Alex Centre’s debut Community Meals program

“This is a place where everyone is welcomed with dignity; nobody is tested for the income they make to feel good about themselves. It’s a place where we can overcome barriers – both  physical and mental – and where community members don’t have to choose between rent and dinner,” explained Renee MacKillop, program manager at The Alex Centre, as she welcomed a team of Calgary Stampede employees to volunteer at the first ever community meal at the Calgary Community Food Centre.

Stampede employees arrived on the Stampede Trolley for a day ahead of helping out the community.

Stampede employees arrived on the Stampede Trolley for a day ahead of helping out the community.

The Alex Centre, since its inception in 1973, has saved millions in taxpayer dollars by moving people from poverty to stability and from crisis to wellness. Its focus is crisis prevention; as such, the community health, housing and food programs are aimed to break down social barriers.

The Alex Community Food Centre (CFC), the organization’s newest program, focuses on the importance of healthy food. The centre teaches community members the skills of cooking and shopping for healthy foods, and the importance of eating healthy to maintain energy and physical and mental wellness.

The Alex Centre focuses on providing individuals with the power, knowledge and skills to take control of their own lives.

The Alex Centre focuses on providing individuals with the power, knowledge and skills to take control of their own lives.

The Stampede Marketing & External Relations team was fortunate to be able to participate in the centre’s first ever community meal on Wednesday, January 25. The debut community meal was a partnership with the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary, a non-profit organization whose mandate is to provide social, cultural, education and employment services to Aboriginal people within the Calgary area. MacKillop provided insight into the collaboration for the debut event by saying “The Alex Community Food Centre is really a place for joy, health and sharing culture.”

To prepare for the community meal the Stampede team helped set up the space to welcome visitors – including preparing place settings for 120 guests, organizing the food health library, cleaning the area and helping to build furniture.

Two Stampede team members helped organize the community library of health-focused books.

Two Stampede team members helped organize the community library of health-focused books.

Before the meal began, representatives from the Aboriginal Friendship Centre blessed the space to provide positive intentions for moving the future. During the delicious, locally-sourced, meal, the Stampede team helped plate foods, serve guests and wash dishes. The menu consisted of fresh foods such as root vegetables, roasted acorn squash, beet salad, elk stew and home-made bannock.

The meal served was all locally-sourced and prepared in-house.

The meal served was all locally-sourced and prepared in-house.

“My favourite part of the day was when, after the guests finished eating, they all joined together to do a traditional dance, led by the Aboriginal Friendship Centre. I was so honoured to be invited into the dance circle where we all joined hands,” shared one Stampede participant. “It made me feel like we are all part of something greater, and all part of one community.”

The success of the debut community meal forecasted a busy future for the centre. Community meals will be served every second Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. at 3920 17 Ave SE. Fridays are fun too – The Alex provides drop-in smoothie making, where the smoothies are blended by the pedal-power of community members on stationary bikes. Learn more about The Alex Centre’s community programs here.

Kicking 2017 off to a great start!

It’s always fantastic to hear compliments from other rodeos about our Calgary Stampede bucking stock. But the horses’ recent performance in Denver at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo is drawing extremely high praise.

“They steal the show from the rest of the stock contractors that are there,” said Leon Vick, Denver’s Senior Director of Rodeo and Horse Show Operations.

Tootsie Roll and Richmond Champion earn 85 points in Denver

Tootsie Roll and Richmond Champion earn 85 points in Denver

47 Calgary Stampede horses were in Denver for the Colorado VS the World Rodeo on January 7, as well as the Pro Rodeo performances that followed on January 12-22. The results on the scoreboard from those events back up Leon Vick’s compliments. In Saddle Bronc, all three rounds of the PRCA sanctioned competition were won on Stampede horses, with Cody Wright riding Tokyo Bubbles for the top score in the finals.

Bareback competition also went well, with two second place finishes on CS stock in the first two rounds, a win for cowboy Jake Brown on our Reckless Margie in the finals, and a 87.5 point championship clinching ride for Tim O’Connell on Tootsie Roll.

“They’re just bigger, stronger and buck better,” said Vick, when asked what makes Calgary Stampede horses stand out from the crowd. “They’re good in the chute and guys get out on them easy. They really perform well, they’re very showy and they tend to help the guys win a lot of money. “

Tim O'Connell captures the championship thanks to another great ride provided by Tootsie Roll

Tim O’Connell captures the championship thanks to another great performance from Tootsie Roll

With competition in Denver wrapped up, the horses have now made the move to San Antonio, Texas. They will enjoy some well-earned rest and relaxation before returning to action at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, February 9-26.

Greatest of the Great in Las Vegas

This year’s National Finals Rodeo (NFR) will go down in the history books as the greatest all time showing for Canada at the world’s richest rodeo and the Calgary Stampede was right there to be a part of it. It is very fitting that we chose to theme our Calgary Stampede booth at the Las Vegas Convention Centre Cowboy Christmas the “Greatest of the Greats” this year because that is truly what was showcased from start to finish at the NFR this December.

Photo1

If you had a chance to get down to the promotional booth, you would have noticed the walls decorated with all the great things Stampede has to offer. On the wall were photos of incredible Stampede competitors like Sage Kimzey, Mary Burger and Zeke Thurston, as well as some of our great Stampede bucking horses. As the week unfolded some of our featured athletes showed the world why they are the greatest of the great. Mary Burger came into the week as the all-time money earning Barrel Racer and left Las Vegas with the distinguished title of oldest-ever competitor at the NFR along with a brand new gold buckle and the crown of World Champion to go along with her other major wins in Houston and the Calgary Stampede.

Mary Burger at the 2016 Calgary Stampede

Mary Burger at the 2016 Calgary Stampede

Sage Kimzey may not have won this year’s Stampede Bull Riding title but he has hoisted that bronze trophy on our stage in the past and also knows how to win World Championships. Sage stayed ahead of his field of tough competitors to claim his third consecutive World Title; the same number of years that he has been a professional bull rider.

Sage Kimzey at the 2016 Calgary Stampede

Sage Kimzey at the 2016 Calgary Stampede

Last, but certainly not least, on the list of all-time great champions of the Calgary Stampede was Zeke Thurston from Big Valley, Alberta. Not only is Zeke the two-time and reigning Calgary Stampede Champion Saddle Bronc rider, he is now the newly crowned World Champion in the event. Zeke is a proud Canadian and second-generation National Finals qualifier who has been carving out his own page in rodeo history with an impressive resume that includes a Rodeo Houston title, two Calgary Stampede titles, a National Finals Rodeo title and  now a World Championship. We are looking forward to seeing all three of these ‘Greats’ back at Stampede in 2017!

Zeke Thurston at the 2016 Calgary Stampede

Zeke Thurston at the 2016 Calgary Stampede

But the story of Canadian success at the NFR doesn’t stop there. Of the eight Canadians competing at this year’s NFR, five are now qualified for an invitation to the 2017 Calgary Stampede. Airdrie’s Jake Vold, three-time and reigning Canadian Champion Bareback Rider, finished second in the NFR and Reserve World Champion. Jake Watson of Hudson Hope, British Columbia, finished the NFR in second place and fifth overall in the World Standings. Clay Elliot, 2016 Canadian Champion Saddle Bronc Rider, calls Nanton, Alberta, home. He finished ninth overall in Las Vegas, with Orin Larsen the Bareback Rider from Inglis, Manitoba, ending his season sitting third in the World Standings.

Along with the success of our future Stampede competitors, some other great Canadian competitors were breaking records in the Team Roping event. Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler became the first all-Canadian team of ropers to ever qualify for the National Finals Rodeo. Not only did they qualify but they dominated the field and on day 10 were crowned the 2016 World Champion Team Ropers, which, as you can guess, also went down in the record books. This is an amazing accomplishment for the Alberta cowboys and a proud moment for rodeo in Canada. Kolton Schmidt from Barrhead, Alberta, also competed in this year’s NFR Team Roping but came up short. Kolton and his great horse Badger did however take home the title of Heading Horse of the Year in the PRCA.

That brings us to our final piece of the Canadian contingent at this year’s NFR: the bucking stock. The Stampede was honored this year to have 13 horses and two bulls selected to compete at the National Finals Rodeo. All in all, it was a great showing, with more than $125,000USD won by cowboys on Stampede stock, and over a quarter of a million dollars total on Canadian bucking stock. We are extremely proud to say when the dust settled, it was an NFR rookie with the CS brand that took home the title of Top Bareback Horse of the NFR. X-9 Xplosive Skies is a descendant of the legendary Grated Coconut and is performing true to her lineage. Being recognized as the best bucking horse is no easy feat but this young mare has incredible skills and will be a force in the arena for many years to come.

One last Stampede notable is Pick-Up Man Gary Rempel who made a record-setting ninth appearance at the National Finals this year. Gary is an integral part of the Stampede team, keeping riders and livestock safe in the arena during all of the rodeos that Stampede is involved with. Congratulations to Gary on yet another successful year!

There were too many great success stories at this year’s Nationals Finals Rodeo to name them all but in the end it comes down to a great team that comes together to represent the Calgary Stampede as The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

NFR 2016

Some of the most notable Calgary Stampede highlights from 2016

2016 was an eventful year for the Calgary Stampede: our bucking stock started and finished the year winning awards at international rodeos, we welcomed more than one million guests during the wettest Stampede since 1927, and Stampede Park hosted visitors year-round for many different ventures, including the Stampede’s first ever Fall Fair. Here’s a monthly recap highlighting only a few of the many milestones the Stampede saw this year.

January
The Calgary Stampede bucking stock brought in the new year in Denver with some big scores at the National Western Stock Show.
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NWSS photo by Sean Halverson, R-82 Reckless Margie

NWSS photo by Sean Halverson, R-82 Reckless Margie

February
The Calgary Stampede Indian Princess Vanessa Stiffarm flew to Australia for Destination Canada’s 2016 Canada Corrobree – a major tourism roadshow. Vanessa, along with other members from the Stampede and Travel Alberta, helped inform travel tour operators, wholesalers and media about all the incredible things Canada has to offer.
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February - IP in AUS

March
The Stampede’s Annual General Meeting was held in March. In addition to sharing the highlights from 2015, president & chairman of the board Bill Gray and chief executive officer Warren Connell gave insight into the Stampede’s future by speaking to the Stampede Park development plans. Connell noted that Youth Campus, the TransAlta Performing Arts Studios and Calgary Arts Academy were all well on their way, in addition to the future plans of expanding the BMO Centre, which would provide an estimated 500 full-time jobs and an added $73 million a year to the economy in Alberta and $87 million to Canada’s GDP.
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Bill Gray, president & chairman (L) Warren Connell, chief executive officer (R)

Bill Gray, president & chairman (L) Warren Connell, chief executive officer (R)

April
Aggie Days moved to their new home in the Agrium Western Event Centre. The lunchtime rodeo took place in the new arena and the animals and exhibits were arranged throughout the main level, in the exhibit hall and around the arena.
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Stampede History Moment Presents: Merry Christmas from the Cosgraves

Dick Cosgrave looms large in Stampede history. Arena director, long-time chuckwagon record holder, stock breeder…Cosgrave did it all. Lesser known about Dick and his wife Olive is that they sent out great Christmas Cards! So this year, we celebrate the holiday season with some flashback greetings from the Cosgraves.

Cograve Christmas Card 1 Calgary Stampede

If only Santa had thoroughbreds instead of reindeer.

 

Cograve Christmas Card 2 Calgary Stampede

Writing the Stampede 2013 catchphrase, 60 years prior.

 

Cograve Christmas Card 3 Calgary Stampede

“As Christmas rolls around again, We’re just now dryin’ out, From that ’65 Stampede so wet; we coulda fished for trout.” Also applicable to 2016.

 

Cograve Christmas Card 4 Calgary Stampede

New event for next year’s Stampede: reindeer-wrestling.

 

Cograve Christmas Card 5 Calgary Stampede

“So with Christmas fast approachin’, It’s nice to make your home, Amongst obligin’ neighbors, who leave their livestock roam” …Remember western hospitality this holiday season.

Today, fourth-generation driver Colt Cosgrave and outrider Chad Cosgrave continue the tradition of competing at the Stampede started by their great-grandfather in 1926.

With 77,000 Christmas Lights and 500 hours of work, Stampede Park has a beautiful public display for the holiday season

“I like my blue trees the best, they’re my signature look,” said Sandy McAfee, park maintenance supervisor and Christmas lights display expert, when asked about the stunning lights display across Stampede Park. McAfee shared that her team, which consist of two core lights-hangers, Kevin Smith and Glen Felt of the Park Maintenance team, as well as four to five additional helpers, bases the lights displays around the locations on Stampede Park. “We use blue and white for the BMO Centre, since those are BMO’s colours, and Stampede colours, red and white, for the Stampede Headquarters Building and main roadway.”

Christmas Lights Stampede Park

McAfee’s signature blue trees have been featured in a lot of surprising places – most notably, they were included digitally outside the Saddledome in one of the old NHL Hockey Xbox games!

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Where in the world is the Showband headed next?

The Calgary Stampede Showband is thrilled to announce that they will be travelling to compete in the World Music Contest (WMC) in Kerkrade, The Netherlands in summer 2017. WMC is the Olympics of music taking place over four weeks from Thursday, July 6 – Sunday, July 30, 2017. The event will feature more than 260 musical ensembles and 20,000 individual musicians. The Showband will be leaving right after Stampede to compete in the marching show band class on Sunday, July 30 against 60 other marching show bands from around the globe.

Photo credit: Kien Le

The Showband is a youth performance ensemble that rehearses and performs year round. Photo credit: Kien Le.

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The 2016 Cutting Horse Futurity saw tough competition, new technology and western spirit

It was a case of go big or go home.

Cayley, Alberta’s Dustin Gonnet knew he needed a big score in the second round of the Open Final at the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Futurity, after facing down a tough cow in the first round and having the judges penalize him.

“If I wouldn’t have been nailed with that hot quit, I might not have been near as aggressive as I was,” Gonnet said after the event, giving credit to the horse he was on, RPL Cat N Around, for eventually pulling off a big win in the class. “She is super confident about her job. She’s a show pony.”

Dustin Gonnet on RPL Cat N Around, owned by Ronald Patton of Nanton, Alberta

Dustin Gonnet on RPL Cat N Around, owned by Ronald Patton of Nanton, Alberta

As a National Cutting Horse Association sanctioned event, this year’s Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Futurity attracted Canadian riders from across the prairies and American riders from as far afield as Texas.  In total, 331 horse-and-rider pairs competed in seven classes for a share of more than $355,000 in prize during the event October 12 to 16 in the Agrium Western Event Centre.

In the sport of cutting, each horse and rider is faced with a herd of cattle and just two and a half minutes on the clock. Working together they separate, or ‘cut’, a cow from the herd.  The rider then drops the reins and allows the horse to use its instincts, strength and agility to mirror the movements of the cow and keep it from the herd.  This can be repeated two more times as long as there’s time on the clock.

For those unfamiliar with the sport, and for guests interested in extra insight into each run, ‘Smart Bug’ personal listening devices were offered during the Saturday Night Cut of the West.

Earpieces

Used for the first time during the cutting at the Calgary Stampede in 2016, the ear buds were again extremely popular with the crowd at the Futurity on Saturday night.  Listeners were able to hear expert commentary and better understand the judging and incredible skills of the horses and riders.

Guests to the Saturday Night Cut of the West were also on hand for a very special award ceremony, as Travis Rempel was recognized as this year’s Calgary Stampede Western Elite Rider.

Calgary Stampede Western Elite Rider, Travis Rempel, with the Calgary Stampede Royalty and Western Performance Horse committee member

Calgary Stampede Western Elite Rider, Travis Rempel, with the Calgary Stampede Royalty and Western Performance Horse committee member

The award recognizes the incredible skills and success of the men and women who dedicate their talents and time to the versatility of the western performance horse.  Created in celebration of the three western performance horse events offered at the Calgary Stampede, the Team Cattle Penning competition, the Cutting Horse competition, and the Working Cow Horse Classic, the Western Elite Rider is awarded to the rider who earns the most points by placing in the top ten of at least two events.

A victory in the Open Finals of the Cutting Horse competition propelled Rempel to the top in 2016. Rempel says competing during the Stampede is a unique but incredible experience.

“It’s electric; the people, the music, the announcer and the fact that you’re here during the rodeo.” He says the honour of being named the Stampede’s Western Elite rider is extremely special to him, and it means even more to him to have achieved it surrounded by friends.

“To me the cool thing about this sport is that you can be in competition with someone, but they’re your friends and they want to you do well. It’s fun to be around. It’s the best.”

Full results from the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Futurity are available here.

Wear a Poppy This November

Sir Douglas Haig, who during the First World War had served as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, which included the Canadians, attended the Calgary Stampede in 1925. His visit to the Stampede was one stop on his cross-Canada tour promoting veterans’ causes.

Haig rode on horseback through downtown Calgary to Stampede Park. Thousands of Calgarians lined the route to cheer him on.

Haig rode on horseback through downtown Calgary to Stampede Park. Thousands of Calgarians lined the route to cheer him on.

When Canadian soldiers returned from the war, Canada was very different than when they had left. Jobs had become more technical and many veterans were unskilled labourers. Making matters worse, veterans’ pensions were very small because the government believed that they should only be supplementary to other income. Almost one in every three veterans had suffered debilitating wounds and countless more had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many could not afford to live in post-war Canada.

Haig met Hoot Gibson, movie star, rodeo champion and the 1925 Stampede Parade Marshal.

Haig met Hoot Gibson, movie star, rodeo champion and the 1925 Stampede Parade Marshal.

Supporting veterans fell to charitable organizations, including numerous national organizations as well as local and regional groups. Their intentions were good but there were too many groups that were too small. They feuded regularly over who would control monies generated by the Poppy Fund. Like today, each November, Canadians would buy and wear poppies. The profits from this campaign were divided between veteran organizations, but by 1925, the groups were so at odds with each other that the veterans did not receive the benefits they could have.

Haig’s trip helped remedy the situation. He crossed the country with a simple message of a united effort. He arrived in Calgary on Thursday, July 9th. His party included numerous representatives from Canadian veterans’ groups. They rode on horseback through downtown Calgary to Stampede Park. Thousands of Calgarians lined the route to cheer on Haig. He then attended the rodeo, met movie star Hoot Gibson who was the Stampede parade marshal that year, and talked with First Nations community leaders, who gave him the honourary name Chief Bull Head. The Stampede, an event wholly dedicated to building a unique and united community, helped Haig spread his message of unity and support to our veterans.

Haig was given the honourary name Chief Bull Head.

Haig was given the honourary name Chief Bull Head.

In November, the success of Haig’s tour came to fruition with the founding of the Canadian Legion of the British Empire Service League: today’s Royal Canadian Legion. The Legion quickly spread from coast to coast becoming a place of refuge, support and comradeship for veterans. Its programs supported disabled veterans and helped those in financial need. The Legion hall became a social hub for many communities. It also lobbied the government for better support and pensions for the country’s war heroes.

Since 1925, the Calgary Stampede has continued to recognize, support, and commemorate the service and sacrifice of the Canadian Forces. Buy a poppy this November. Wear it in proud reminder of our nation’s fallen and, in doing so, support our veterans through the important work and programs of the Canadian Legion.

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