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

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.

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.

frisbee 1

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).

IMG_4033

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

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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

More than the Money – the Unique Partnership at the Back of the Track

John Walters isn’t easily shaken. A veteran chuckwagon driver, his previous career in rodeo included riding broncs and wrestling steers. But cowboy tough doesn’t always keep the nerves from getting to you. Especially when up on stage at the Calgary Stampede Canvas Auction.

“There are definitely some butterflies in your stomach. It’s nerve-wracking, for sure,” Walters said with a grin, clearly back in his comfort zone after the bidding had ended and he was teamed up with the  Brakeman Foundation for the third year running.

Photo courtesy: Larry Kwan

Photo courtesy: Larry Kwan

The Canvas Auction is a high stakes event. Pegged as a yearly barometer of Calgary’s economy, the money raised also plays a big role in the success of a driver’s entire season. Continue reading

New adventures, new home for Aggie Days!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to kiss a llama? Or how a tiny bee can turn nectar into honey? At Aggie Days the answers, adventures and wonder await! And this year you will be able to find them in the Agrium Western Event Centre.

“The new location means a new way of exploring Aggie Days. As you walk through the Agrium Centre and wander through AltaLink Hall you will find new things to see and do,” says Aggie Days committee member Josh Traptow. “Our Aggie Days team has also been working hard to ensure there are brand new experiences for our visitors, many who join us year after year, but also familiar ones as well.”

Children can get up close and personal with a variety of animals at Aggie Days

Children can get up close and personal with a variety of animals at Aggie Days

Aggie Days is a place of wonder where children can see and learn about where their food comes from, how animals can be hard working helpers and of course, have a lot of fun. From farmers and ranchers, bee keepers to weavers, many different experts will be sharing their love for what they do and just how exactly it all happens. Continue reading

Highlights from the 2016 Calgary Stampede Annual General Meeting

Positivity and progress were reoccurring themes at the Calgary Stampede’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), held on Tuesday, March 15, 2016. Shareholders gathered at Stampede Park to vote for the board of directors, receive financial and shareholder updates, and hear from president & chairman of the board of directors, Bill Gray, and chief executive officer, Warren Connell.

president & chairman of the board of directors, Bill Gray (L), chief executive officer, Warren Connell (R)

president & chairman of the board of directors, Bill Gray (L), chief executive officer, Warren Connell (R)

Gray spoke of the milestones celebrated in 2015, including the Stampede’s new partnership with the Calgary Opera to create a new opera space on Stampede Park, and of the achievements of the Stampede’s many youth education and development programs. “When I started as the Stampede’s president & chairman of the board, I knew that our organization, on a year-round basis, was very committed to youth education.  What I did not appreciate was the breadth and extent of our involvement in those programs,” he said. Continue reading

History moment: Calgary Stampede remembers some of our greatest female contributors for International Women’s Day

To celebrate the centennial of Alberta women achieving the right to vote and International Women’s Day on March 8, let’s take a look at some of the pioneering women of western performances and rodeo who competed at the first Calgary Stampede. Continue reading

What gifts will you give this holiday season?

You’re invited to The Spirit of Christmas, presented by The Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, on Sunday, December 6, at the Jack Singer Concert Hall. This uplifting performance celebrates the greatest gifts we can give each other this holiday season, inspiring audiences to think about the gifts that come from within.

Dancers and singers act out numerous gifts throughout the performance, including the gifts of compassion, joy, laughter, peace and more. “[This year’s performers] were asked to bring their own life experiences into the pieces, which creates those deeper threads,” says Cyndi Scott, director of dance development.

Our inner gifts

Our inner gifts

Continue reading

2015 Aboriginal Awareness Family Day Festival and Pow Wow Competition

IMG_0046

The 2015 National Aboriginal Week festivities included an exciting full day of cultural exchange on Stampede Park. On Saturday, June 20, Indian Village hosted a family day Pow Wow. For First Nations peoples, the Pow Wow is a chance to connect with family and old friends, in addition to making new friends.

IMG_0050

The day began with a free pancake breakfast, followed by the grand entry and opening remarks, a pow wow, Métis jigging and hoop dancing. Former Grand National Chief Phil Fontaine, and the comedian Don Burnstick also spoke to the crowds. 

IMG_0048

Pictured: a buffalo float contribution to the 2015 Parade. The first Stampede Parade took place on September 2, 1912. It was lead by 1,800 Treaty 7 First Nations people in full regalia. Today, it’s one of the largest parades in North America, second only to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

 

 

 

IMG_0209

Pictured: Indian Princesses-in-training practicing their fancy dance moves.

Continue reading