Stampede committees work together to host event that proves anyone can be a rodeo star

The Calgary Stampede Queens’ Alumni committee, in partnership with the 4-H committee, and sponsored by Maxim Power Corp., hosted Giddy-Up Rodeo this past weekend, an event for special needs children to come have some fun and try their skills in mock-rodeo events.

“We love participating in the amazing events you hold for the special needs community,” Giddy-Up attendee, Katy Lowe, said. “My son has autism and cannot usually participate in community events and as a result neither can his two sisters.” Giddy-Up Rodeo, and all of the Queen’s Alumni Giddy-Up events, are specially designed so that children can participate in community events at their pace and in a comfortable setting that isn’t over-stimulating and overwhelming. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming and it’s an event where everyone can feel accepted.

As soon as you walked through the doors of the beautiful Agrium Western Event Centre guests were immediately greeted by enthusiastic members of the Stampede board of directors, members of the Promotion committee (who were giving out CS branded stamps and showing off their roping skills) and an 11-year-old fiddler to set the tone.

Giddy Up Rodeo 2016 - Agrium

 

Giddy Up Rodeo - Promotion committee

Giddy Up Rodeo - welcome Continue reading

Why colour guard is the unexpected sport your child should try this year

When you’re wondering what sport or activity your child should try this year, colour guard usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind – but it should be! Colour guard is what we call the group of athletes/performers/dancers that twirl flags and toss (fake) rifles in front of marching bands. They’re extremely impressive but no one really knows how to join a colour guard, how you learn those skills, or what the colour guard does when they aren’t leading a parade. To answer these questions and more, the Escalade Winter Guard Association is hosting a colour guard Youth Development Camp this month, providing beginner instruction in dance, flag, and rifle skills – perfect for youth of all ages! Plus, if your tween/teen likes it, they can sign up to join the Calgary Round Up Band or Calgary Stetson Show Band this season. Still not convinced? We’ve got 8 reasons your kid should give colour guard a try this summer:

1. They don’t call it the “sport of the arts” for nothing! Colour guard is called the “sport of the arts” because it brings music to life through performance in a competitive format. Performers demonstrate skill, agility, strength and endurance through choreographed movement, dance and use of props set to music to tell a story. Every season, colour guards rehearse several times a week to prepare for competitions. They make it look easy, but it takes a huge amount of skill to gracefully spin and toss colour guard equipment.

The Stampede Showband is an auditioned group for youth ages 16-21. Taylor Fraser, pictured here, is preparing to toss her "rifle" into the air, so it'll spin six times, and then catch it. Photo: End Credits

The Stampede Showband is an auditioned group for youth ages 16-21. Taylor Fraser, pictured here, is preparing to toss her “rifle”. It’ll spin in the air, and she’ll catch it without missing a beat. Photo: End Credits.

The coaches and instructors are seasoned veterans who have performed and competed at the highest levels. Many of the instructors with Calgary’s colour guard ensembles performed with the Calgary Stampede Showband and Drum Corps International (DCI) ensembles, and continue to compete in local elite ensembles like Escalade. Continue reading

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.

parade 2016)

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

Stampede kitchen shares recipe to keep you energized while you visit Stampede Park

The 2016 Stampede is already at the halfway mark – but there are still tons of events for guests to check out this week, including the many shows that are included with your admission such as the Canine Stars, Bell Adrenaline Ranch and Peking Acrobats – so here are two quick and easy recipes from the Calgary Stampede Kitchen to keep your energy high.

Graham Armstrong, Stampede sous chef, holding the granola bars with his coworkers and fellow chefs holding the honey and granola bits.

Graham Armstrong, Stampede sous chef, holding the granola bars with his coworkers and fellow chefs holding the honey and granola bits.

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Canine Stars share the secrets to their tricks while putting on a spectacular show

The Canine Stars prove it’s possible for any dog to become a confident show dog because most of the dogs featured in the shows have been rescued or adopted.

Ray, one Canine Star, was found on the street when he was only two-years old, with his sister. Any loud or sudden noise would make Ray cower with fear and hide. Now, one of the stars of the Stampede’s new show, the cheers and claps from the audience motivate and encourage him to do the tricks. “We use only positive reinforcement on the dogs,” explained the show’s  host, “encouraging them with toys, treats and praise – including cheering and clapping!” The louder the audience members would cheer, the faster the dogs would run and the higher they’d jump.

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Ray chasing the Frisbee at the Dog Bowl

And he's got it!

And he’s got it!

After hearing Ray’s story, and seeing his confidence catching the Frisbee time and time again, the announcer let the audience in on the secret of training your own pooch at home to catch the Frisbee in long distances and stunts. Continue reading

BMO Farm Family focuses on environment and sustainability

From humble beginnings on a farm in Holland, one BMO Farm Family’s Alberta agriculture involvement has grown substantially over the years. “We moved here in 1954, just one week after our wedding” said Margaret Rommens, who grew up on a farm in Holland. Margaret and her husband Adrian began their Canadian journey by worked for other Albertan farmers, while saving up to one day buy their own land. In 1971, the couple had saved enough to purchase three quarters of land and begin their own operation.

“Irrigation was new to us, but we had to start somewhere and take the opportunity,” Margaret explained. “And good thing we did because we’ve been quite successful.” In less than 30 years, the operation had grown from 30 dairy cattle to 120 – and continued to expand from there, with approximately 200 head today, which are all purebred Holsteins. Along with the number of cattle, the Rommens family grew as well – Margaret and Adrian had six children, and now have several grandchildren, many of whom are in their twenties deciding on career paths (including university graduates with medical doctor and finance degrees).

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Margaret Rommens (fifth from the left) with her family at the 2016 BMO Farm Family Awards

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Stampede life hack: the Casper nap pod

Nap pods have become the envy of the corporate world; they have risen in popularity and studies have shown that employee productivity increases when nap pods are an option in the office. Today I lived my corporate fantasy of napping at work – in the Casper nap pod on the Stampede Midway.

Nap 1

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Heavy horse hitches at the 2016 Calgary Stampede

Spending 12 of their 225 travel days per year at the Calgary Stampede, the Express Clydesdale team couldn’t be happier. “We love Calgary! We absolutely love it here,” exclaimed Michael Honhner of the Express Hitch team, from Oklahoma. The Express Clydesdales came to the Stampede this year to participate in the Heavy Horse Show, where they won Best in Show last year, and while they’re here they will also act as the feature hitch during the GMC Rangeland Derby. Their first Stampede award of 2016 came at the Stampede Parade, where the team was awarded Best Heavy Horse 6 and 8 Horse Hitch Commercially owned.

Bob Funk, owner of Express Ranches and CEO and chairman of Express Employment Professionals, holding his team’s Parade entry award

Bob Funk, owner of Express Ranches and CEO and chairman of Express Employment Professionals, holding his team’s Parade entry award

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Unofficial gay day celebration at Nashville North, officially one of the best parties yet

With more than 350 confirmed attendees, Charles Macmichael encouraged members of the LGBTQ community to celebrate together in Stampede Spirit at Nashville North on the first Saturday of Stampede. “We have been doing this unofficially for [a while] now and it continues to be amazing, grow in number and in fun. Last year we had over 300 attendees! This is a great way to enjoy new friends, meet amazing guys and gals and get your western wear on,” Macmichael wrote on the Facebook event page.

The Facebook event page was shared with approximately 1,500 people – among them, were Stampede employees – team lead, marketing, Jenn Mayuga, and manager, organizational communications, Kathryn Jenkins. Mayuga and Jenkins immediately got to work to help Macmichael’s guests feel welcomed by creating and printing out Calgary Stampede stickers featuring a rainbow cowboy boot beside the CS logo.

“We wanted to show support and extend our western hospitality to all of the attendees of this unofficial event,” explained Mayuga. “As the gathering place for the community during Stampede time, we were excited and appreciative that they chose Stampede Park as the venue to come together to celebrate; and we hope they have a good time today!”

Adam Burlock (L) with Alex Garcia (R) sporting their Stampede stickers.

Adam Burlock (L) with Alex Garcia (R) sporting their Stampede stickers.

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10 behind-the-scenes moments from the Calgary Stampede Parade

Standing between a band marching towards me in one direction, and a golf cart full of paraphernalia driving by in another, Parade committee member Sharon Spooner looked at me, smiled, and said, “This is it! This is the fun part!” There was a lot that went on behind the scenes of the Calgary Stampede Parade and these were just a few of the moments that stood out to me.

1. There was a larger-than-life bull on the sidewalk, who may or may not have been parked illegally.

Steer

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10 things to see and do at Stampede 2016

Axe throwing, deep fried tequila shots, a 45-foot tall spinning ride, an international pavilion, a fire-lit tight-rope walker and a beautiful, new, 16-acre park are just a few of the new offerings to check out this Stampede. What’s your Stampede thing?

1. Ride the Stampede’s new ride

A new ride means a new opportunity for challenging yourself and your friends; Spin Out is a 45-foot tall rotating claw that spins you in every way imaginable – including spinning while you’re hanging upside down! For information on our other rides and ride packages, check out: http://www.calgarystampede.com/stampede/attractions/midway

Spin Out

Spin Out

 

2. Watch rescue dogs perform jaw-dropping tricks at the Dog Bowl

These rescue dogs and dogs adopted from shelters, of multiple sizes and breeds, prove that you can do anything you set your mind to, and overcome any obstacles in your way; watch as these dogs defy gravity through freestyle Frisbee disc, flyball racing and high jumping agility demonstrations. Be sure to stay until the end of the show for the exhilarating dock diving act. Canine Stars will motivate you to go home and train your pooch a new trick or two.

The Dog Bowl will feature six shows daily with room for more than 2,000 dog lovers per show. Daily shows are at 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 5 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 8 p.m. In addition, on Suncor Family Day and BMO Kids’ Day, the first show will be at 10:30 a.m. Sneak-A-Peek on Thursday, July 7 will feature two shows at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Canine Stars

Canine Stars

 

3. Relax by the river in Indian Village’s new home in the brand new ENMAX Park

Stampede Park’s newest green space, a beautiful inner city public park and gathering space, is the new home to Indian Village presented by Penn West. Located by the MacDonald Entry, and across the bridge from Kids’ Midway, you can experience a number of activities at Indian Village including daily dance demonstrations and  tipi raising competitions, cooking demonstrations over a an open fire, and traditional arts and crafts created by Treaty 7 artisans. Don’t forget that the Bannok Booth has also moved with Indian Village to ENMAX Park so be sure to grab some doughy goodness and relax and enjoy it on the lush green grass.

Indian Village’s first event, the Opening Ceremonies and Camp Moving Ceremony on Friday, July 8, the first day of the 2016 Calgary Stampede.

Indian Village has moved to beautiful ENMAX Park!

Indian Village has moved to beautiful ENMAX Park!

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In It to Win It – Here Come the Bensmiller Brothers

It could be considered a pretty high-stress situation. But Kurt Bensmiller is keeping his cool about this year’s Calgary Stampede.

“I’ll be going there to win, just like every year,” he says. “Whether the cards are in my favour? We’ll see in mid-July.”

What Bensmiller and many others will be waiting to see, is whether he can capture a third straight championship at the Calgary Stampede’s GMC Rangeland Derby. Only three men have ever managed that in the event’s long and storied history. Rolling in to the first races of the season, Bensmiller is not letting that get to him.

“If there’s any pressure, it will be what I put on myself,” he says, adding he’s feeling good about the strength and depth of his barn with 16 new horses added to his team of veterans this spring.  But in Calgary, 35 other chuckwagon drivers will be looking to turn up the heat, setting their sights on knocking Kurt Bensmiller from that top spot. Among them – his younger brother, Chance.

(L) Chance Bensmiller (R) Kurt Bensmiller

(L) Chance Bensmiller (R) Kurt Bensmiller

“If anyone dethrones him, I hope it’s me.”  For years Chance Bensmiller has worked with Kurt, training  in the spring at his elder brother’s home.  But after getting the call from the Calgary Stampede this past fall, Chance decided to change things up.

“I decided to take a different approach on my own, to focus solely on my own horses. I had some things I had to work out.” Despite making the decision to train separately this season, Bensmiller still maintains a strong connection to all of his family in the sport, including father and former Stampede Champion Buddy Bensmiller.

Chance Bensmiller at the 2013 Calgary Stampede

Chance Bensmiller at the 2013 Calgary Stampede

“A lot of guys don’t have a big family like mine. Having my dad, Kurt and brother-in-law Vern (Nolin), that family support is huge.”  While Kurt is the recipient of much of their father’s assistance, Chance claims another family advantage – brother David, a talented and much sought after outrider.

“David’s my first call,” says the younger Bensmiller. “Words can’t even describe how much pressure is lifted off my shoulders knowing he is holding my lead team when the horn blows.”  For Kurt, family is a big part of what brought him into the sport, and what keeps him racing.

“That’s one of the biggest reasons I got into this,” he says, adding “Not many people can love their job as much as I do and be lucky enough to share it with family like I do.”

(L) Chance Bensmiller (R) Kurt Bensmiller

(L) Chance Bensmiller (R) Kurt Bensmiller

As for sharing the wagon box this summer at the Stampede, like they have in the past, both Bensmiller brothers are hoping it just won’t be possible.

“Hopefully we’re both in late heats, and too close” Kurt says with a smile in his voice. “We’ll be too close to help each other. That’s a good thing.”

Fun Fact:

The Bensmillers are among four sets of brothers set to compete at the Calgary Stampede in 2016. There are also four father-son combinations.

An Ode to the Band of Outriders

The Calgary Stampede Band of Outriders was formed in 1991 and is known for sharing their musical version of western hospitality to local crowds and thousands of Calgary visitors every day during the 10-day Stampede. Andrea Khoury, an Outriders alumna and founding member of the band, wrote this poem to celebrate the Outriders’ 25th anniversary. Enjoy!

There are strange things done in the name of fun by the geeks who toil in the band.

The Stampede trails have the oddest tales that have traveled throughout the land.

The midway lights have seen great sights but the greatest they ever did see

Was the group that was formed, out of old drums and horns, by people like you and me.

The Band of Outriders have been entertaining audiences on Stampede park and in the community for 25 years! Yahoo!

The Band of Outriders have been entertaining audiences on Stampede park and in the community for 25 years! Yahoo!

 

Now old Bobby E was from Calgary, where the marching bands twirl and blow.

Why he left his room at the school to groom new musicians we’ll never know.

He started with Round-up, then moved on to Showband with Stetsons to follow in time

And by ninety-one, Mr. Eklund not done, it was time for a new band to shine.

 

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Stampede Ranches Busy with Babies

Life is always interesting at the Stampede Ranch, but springtime is something special.

“It’s my favourite time of the year,” says Calgary Stampede ranch manager Tyler Kraft. “After a long winter, spring comes and the grass starts to turn green. But the best part is the babies.”

The little ones started to make their arrivals on the Stampede’s 22,000 acre property near Hanna, Alberta mid-April. Still in full baby-mode, Kraft and ranch hand Charlie McKinnon are busy watching over the new moms and pregnant mares, which have been brought up close to the ranch buildings for the season. While hands-on with the mares if they need to be, the men know the horses would sooner just be left alone to give birth. And it’s never long before the foals are up, active and – hopefully – hungry.

Newly born foal with mom at the Stampede Ranch

Newly born foal with mom at the Stampede Ranch

“The most crucial thing early on is making sure they are up on their feet and getting the essential first nutrients from their mother’s milk,” says Kraft, adding “they’ll stay with their mothers for about eight months before they are weaned.”

With bucking in their blood, these wobbly-legged foals hold the promise of one day becoming powerful rodeo competitors. Part of the Born to Buck program, they will eventually be introduced into the herd of more than 600 horses at the Stampede Ranch.

Nearly two dozen babies have been born so far, with dramatic weather swings adding a unique twist to the already busy time. Temperatures in the high twenties one week turned into three straight days of snow the next. But despite a foot and a half of snow, Kraft says the temperatures didn’t drop enough to cause problems. In fact, the snow was welcomed.

“It’s much needed moisture. With the warm weather, this spring has been very dry. This snow will give the grass a good start.”

Mom and foal enjoying the moisture the snow brought to the Stampede Ranch

Mom and foal enjoying the moisture the snow brought to the Stampede Ranch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the Calgary Stampede’s historic OH Ranch, just down the road from Longview, Alberta, the weather is also proving beneficial. The mild spring is making things much easier for ranch manager Ken Pigeon and his team during calving season this year.

“It’s been great. It’s a lot easier to check on them and we aren’t finding them shaking and shivering right after being born.” says Pigeon, adding “we also haven’t had to bring any of them indoors to warm them up.”

Right now Pigeon is constantly on the go. Every three to four hours he heads out to check on the more than two hundred cows and the calves that have already been born. The heifers – first time moms – are watched even more closely. A much smaller group of 17, they are in a pasture close to the ranch buildings to make sure they get help quickly if they need it.

Calves enjoying fresh milk from their moms

Calves enjoying fresh milk from their moms at the Calgary Stampede OH Ranch

All that care and attention is paying off. More than 150 little ones have now been born, with a few extra surprises along the way.

“We have two sets of twins,” says Pigeon, with a smile. “They’re doing great!”  Under the ranch manager’s watchful eye, those twins and all of the newborn calves will continue to flourish and grow on land that has supported cattle for generations and will continue to do so for years to come.

Calves twins means there's always someone to play with!

Calves twins means there’s always someone to play with!

 

5 Reasons not to miss the Community Round Up on May 28!

The Calgary Stampede and Centre for Newcomers are excited to invite you to put on your cowboy hat and mosey over to the Community Round Up on Saturday, May 28, 9 a.m. to noon outside the Pacific Place Mall (999 36 St NE). Here are five reasons not to miss this year’s Community Round Up:

Your first Stampede pancake in 2016! There’s a skill involved with mixing the perfect pancake batter and flipping those golden flapjacks to perfection. Our Stampede Caravan committee has got that skill down to a science. Don’t forget about the sausages and drizzling maple syrup. We’re drooling just thinking about our first Stampede breakfast of the year.

Photo Credit: Tye Carson / Calgary StampedeExtend your yahoos to the newest members of our community. The Community Round Up is partnering with the Centre for Newcomers for this event to give new Calgarians a warm Stampede welcome and an introduction to the 10-day festival. We know our city’s weather can be confusing, but going to the Stampede for the first time doesn’t have to be. We’ll have information for first-time Stampede goers about how to get to Stampede Park, Value Days and all the amazing things to do on Stampede Park for 10 days in July.

All the fun you can have on a Saturday morning with furry friends. Want to experience the farm while in the city limits? Community Round Up will have a petting zoo this year! Get up close to all the barnyard animals you grew up loving. There will be plenty of great photo opportunities capturing your little ones meeting these new furry friends!

Photo Credit: Shane Kuhn / Calgary Stampede

Photo Credit: Shane Kuhn / Calgary Stampede

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dust off your dancing boots. Square dancing, live music and a stage of community cultural programming – all this before noon on Saturday! Two-step with Harry the Horse or watch your local Punjabi dance class perform. There’s entertainment for everybody at Community Round Up.

Photo Credit: Shaun Robinson / Calgary Stampede

Photo Credit: Shaun Robinson / Calgary Stampede

Sneak a peek before Sneak-A-Peek. Community Round Up is as close as you can get to experiencing the Stampede before it starts: the Stampede Showband, roping demonstrations and the best excuse to dig your western wear out of the back of your closet. And did we mention a pancake breakfast?