Calgary Stampede Historical Committee

Calgary Stampede History

An entrepreneurial American cowboy named Guy Weadick visited Calgary and the surrounding area in the early 1900s and envisioned a tribute show to the pioneers of the west and a cowboy championship contest. He arranged $100,000 in financing from the "Big 4" (influential ranchers and businessmen George Lane, Archie McLean, Patrick Burns and A.E.Cross) and in September 1912, the first Calgary Stampede came to life.

1875:

  • Calgary was established when Fort Calgary was built by the North West Mounted Police at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow rivers.

1877:

  • The First Nations of southern Alberta signed Treaty 7 near Gleichen in September. The Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, Tsuu T’ina and Nakoda peoples would become an integral part of the Calgary Stampede’s Parade, downtown attractions and Indian Village.

1883:

  • The Canadian Pacific Railway arrived at Calgary, later bringing visitors from as far east as Winnipeg to attend the first Stampede.

1884:

  • The Calgary Agricultural Society was formed on August 16. With a population of about 500 people, Calgary was incorporated as a town on November 7.

1886:

  • The Agricultural Society was reorganized after interruption by the 1885 Riel Rebellion. The first exhibition/fair was held October 9. Calgary’s population was about 2,000 people.

1889:

  • With the help of Major James Walker, the Agricultural Society acquired 94 acres of land from the Dominion of Canada and began improvements to the site with a race track, cattle sheds and an exhibition building. This land on the Elbow River continues to be the site of Calgary Stampede.

1894:

  • Calgary became a city with a population of 3,900.

1900:

  • Land owned by the Agricultural Society reverted to the City of Calgary, when the city paid a deficit of $7,000. The Calgary Agricultural Society was reorganized as the Inter-Western Pacific Exposition Co. in March.

1901:

  • The first Calgary bull sale was held on April 12. Sixty lots of cattle were sold with entries including various breeds of bulls, cows and heifers. The world-renowned bull sale continues to this day.

1905:

  • Guy Weadick, of Rochester, New York, visited Calgary for the first time serving as the agent for rodeo entertainer Will Pickett. He also met his future wife Florence LaDue in Chicago.

1908:

 

  • Guy Weadick, a cowboy trick roper (part of the famous 101 Ranch Troupe), performed at the Dominion Exhibition, a national fair held in July in Calgary.
  • Special days at the fair included: Dominion Day, Alberta Day, Farmers’ Day, American Day, Ladies’ Day, Citizens’ Day and Ranchers’ Day. Special days became a lasting tradition at the Calgary Stampede.
  • Prize money at the Dominion Fair was $13,000 and the Industrial Building was constructed for this important National exhibition. Calgary’s population was about 25,000 people.

 

1910:

  • The Stampede’s name changed from the Inter-Western Pacific Exhibition Company to the Calgary Industrial Exhibition Company, Ltd. on November 30. The prize money for the horse races was $7,000.

1911:

  • Construction started on the new $55,000 livestock and horse show arena. It was 200 feet long and 84 feet wide with seating capacity of 3,000 people. Pari-mutuel betting (a system in which all bets of a particular type are placed together in a pool) was introduced at the horse races.

1912:

  • Guy Weadick was invited by CPR livestock agent, H.C. McMullen to come to Calgary to produce a show commemorating “The Last-Best West.”
  • After meetings with officials of the Calgary Industrial Exhibition Company failed, Weadick and McMullen were successful in finding four financial backers for the show. Pat Burns, A.E. Cross, George Lane and Archie J. McLean would soon become known as the “Big Four” each guaranteeing up to $25,000 to ensure expenses were covered.
  • The first Calgary Stampede was held September 2 to 7 following the summer Calgary Exhibition. An estimated 80,000 people attended the first Parade, an astonishing number considering Calgary’s population at the time was just over 60,000 people.
  • The Duke of Connaught and Princess Patricia watched the Stampede from the viewing box built especially for the Royal guests.
  • Tom Three Persons, of the Kainai First Nation, won the 1912 saddle bronc championship, the most coveted prize, riding a horse named Cyclone to a standstill. Most of the major events offered a first prize of $1,000, a saddle and a gold belt buckle.
 

1913-1918:

  • The Stampede was cancelled due to the First World War, but Guy Weadick continued to conduct rodeos elsewhere including Winnipeg in 1913 and New York in 1916.

1919:

  • General Manager Ernie Richardson, through George Lane, invited Guy Weadick to organize and put on the second Calgary Stampede (called the Victory Stampede), held August 25-30 to celebrate the end of the first World War. Its success was once again guaranteed in part by The Big Four.
 

1922:

  • The last separate Calgary Exhibition was held.

1923:

  • Guy Weadick organized another Stampede, combining it with the Exhibition. The first combined Calgary Exhibition and Stampede was held in July and yearly ever since.
  • Chuckwagon racing was a new event added to the yearly rodeo.
  • The first Stampede breakfast was served from a chuckwagon in downtown Calgary.

1925:

  • The North West Mounted Police post from Morley was moved to Stampede Park and is still in use today in Weadickville.

1926:

  • The Coldstream Guards Band from Britain attended the Stampede. Guest bands extend back to at least 1909, and the tradition of visiting bands continues to this day.
 

1932:

  • The Industrial Exhibition name was legally changed to the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede, the name that lasts today. Guy Weadick’s contract with the Stampede was not renewed after a dispute with the Stampede board.

1946:

  • Patsy Rodgers was appointed the first Calgary Stampede Queen. In 1947 a contest was held adding a princess to the Stampede Royalty, and in 1948 a second princess was added. The Calgary Stampede Queen and Princesses are still an important part of the Calgary Stampede today.

1950:

  • The Stampede Corral building opened December 26 at a cost of about $1,400,000. It was home ice for the Calgary Stampeders hockey team, as well as an exhibition building on Stampede Park.

1951:

  • The Royal Winter Stampede was specially organized for Princess Elizabeth and Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, on October 18.

1952:

  • Guy Weadick was a special honoured guest at the Stampede, officiating at the closing ceremonies and ending many years of rift with the Stampede.

1953:

  • Guy Weadick died and was laid to rest in High River, a town south of Calgary, beside his wife Flores LaDue who passed away in 1951.

1956:

  • The Agriculture Building was built costing $1 million and housed the Stampede’s many agricultural competitions and demonstrations.
  • The selection of a special guest to lead the Parade as Parade Marshal became an exciting annual announcement. Previously, Calgary’s Fire Chief, Cappy Smart, was usually the marshal, sometimes sharing the position with another special guest.

1958:

  • Entertainment at this Stampede included The Cisco Kid, Jay Sisler and his performing sheep dogs, clown Fess Reynolds with his African lion, Joaquin Sanchez with his trick mule, the Skymaster’s helicopter act and the RCMP musical ride. Entertainment acts continue to be an important part of the Calgary Stampede.
  • The special Calgary Royal Stampede was held for Princess Margaret on July 29.
 

1959:

  • Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, attended the Stampede.
  • The Big Four Exhibits Building/Curling Rink costing $2,235,000 was officially opened during Stampede week. At the time, comprised of 48 ice sheets, it was the world’s largest curling rink. The ice sheets were eventually replaced by the Stampede Casino with the lower floor being used for other purposes including various shows.

 

1963:

  • This year’s theme was Salute to Transportation. Bob Hope, Jay Silverheels (Tonto) and Wilf Carter were guests of the Stampede. The Three Stooges were the main entertainers; other acts included the precision parachute jumping of Kaz Ostrom, the helicopter aerial act of Larry Ruhl and Sandy Winters and a rocket belt demonstration.

1964:

  • The Calgary Kidettes (a prelude to The Young Canadians) under the direction of Randy Avery became part of the Stampede Grandstand Show.

1966:

  • The theme of this Stampede was Salute to the Petroleum Industry. A drilling rig display complete with a flame shooting from the top was donated to the Stampede the next year. The tower was left in place to mark the area then christened “Flare Square” which was used for displays and events related to the annual theme.

1967:

  • The Stampede became a nine day event, opening Thursday July 6 and running through to Saturday, July 15.
  • The first hot air balloon race was held at the Stampede.
  • The Stampede Queen contest was conducted by a committee for the first time. Previously it had been looked after by the A.C.T. club (Associated Canadian Travellers).

1968:

  • The Stampede became a 10-day event after legislative changes to the Lord’s Day Act made it possible for business to be conducted on Sunday.
  • The Young Canadians were formed, in part from the forerunner Calgary Kidettes, and debuted at the Stampede Grandstand show.
 

1970:

  • Indian Village hosted the World Chicken Dance Championships for the first time.
  • In conjunction with the Canadian Rodeo Cowboys Association, the Stampede introduced a Rodeo College.

1971:

  • The first annual Oktoberfest was held October 4 to 9 in the Corral. The fall celebration continued for five years, with the last one from September 26 to October 4, 1976.

1972:

  • The first indoor Rodeo Royal was held March 22 to 25, attracting 18,978 visitors.
  • Denise Yellowhorn, of the Piikani First Nation, was selected to represent Indian Village as the Indian Princess.

1973:

  • Calgary and Quebec City established a twin-city arrangement on August 27.

1974:

  • A racetrack and new concrete Grandstand for 17,000 people was built at the cost of about $15 million, officially opening in July.

1975:

  • Kinsmen Park and the new Indian Village site were both developed at the south end of Stampede Park.

1976:

  • Attendance at the Calgary Stampede broke one million people for the first time, and this attendance threshold has been met or exceeded at every Stampede since 1985.
  • The Stampede Parade was moved to the first Friday of the 10-day event from its previous usual day on Monday.

1979:

  • The first chuckwagon canvas auction, where businesses bid for advertisement space on the chuckwagon canvasses, brought a top bid of $3400. Today, the winning bid can surpass $200,000.
  • The development of the “Stampede Slim” trademark led to the introduction of a licensing program and from 1979 to 1980, more than 30 souvenirs and novelty items were licensed to private manufacturers and distributors.
  • Fort Calgary House was torn down to make way for the LRT (Light Rail Transit) tracks and station and Rotary House which opened in 1980. The original stone fireplace of Fort Calgary House was left in place as a monument.

1980:

  • The NHL hockey team, the Flames, moved from Atlanta to Calgary, playing in the Corral building.
  • The City of Calgary opened the Light Rail Transit (LRT or C-train) system allowing visitors easier access to Stampede Park.
  • On November 15, the 14-foot high bronze The Bronc Twister, sculptured by Rich Roenisch, was presented to the Calgary Stampede by Bill Siebens. The sculpture, capturing a promotional symbol used in early Calgary Stampede posters, continues to greet visitors at the west entrance to Stampede Park. Public art is still an important aspect of the Stampede today.

1981:

  • The Round-Up Center was completed at a cost of $21 million dollars. Housing many Stampede events, it also offers year-round convention and meeting spaces for Calgary.

1982:

  • The Stampede announced the “half million dollar rodeo”, with each main rodeo event competitor vying for a $50,000 prize in the showdown, at the time the richest purse ever offered in the history of the sport.

1983:

  • The Saddledome was built on Stampede Park for the Calgary Flames NHL team and the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.

1986:

  • The Stampede celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first Exhibition. One major undertaking included commissioning and publishing the Stampede’s official history. A Brand of Its Own was written by Calgary author and historian James Gray.

1988:

  • The Stampede played a pivotal role in the Calgary Olympics – hosting 56 hockey and skating events in the Saddledome and Corral as well as the international broadcast centre.

1994:

  • The Calgary Stampede Foundation was established to raise and distribute funds in support of youth activities on Stampede Park.

1996:

  • Stampede Park introduced its first building mural displaying Stampede history. Presently there are eight murals on Stampede buildings, the last one unveiled in 2000.

1997:

  • A permanent rodeo infield structure with 23 deluxe box suites was built at a cost of $8.2 million, offering prime viewing unrivalled in the sport of rodeo.

1999:

  • The establishment of an archives ensured preservation of the Stampede’s history, reclaiming an important task that had been entrusted to the Glenbow Archives around 1965.

2000:

  • The Calgary Bull Sale celebrated its centennial and the Junior Livestock Show marked its twentieth year. The unveiling of the new Bull Sale mural on the west side of the agricultural building took place during the 10-day Stampede.
  • The new TransAlta stage debuted at the evening Grandstand Show where Tom Jackson was the featured guest.
  • The Roundup Centre addition was completed at a cost of about $30 million, increasing the space under roof to 389,000 square feet. The bronze of a mounted cowboy bringing a calf home from the open range, titled Roundup by artist Linda Stewart, was placed at the northwest corner of the new facility.
  • The colorful and highly successful Udderly Art Auction in October supported various local charities by raising over a million dollars.

2001:

  • The Stampede invested more than $1 million in Park and Elbow River bank beautification projects.
  • A private restaurant called Ranahans was built in the Grandstand providing Calgary's corporate community with a premium facility for hosting, unlike anything else on or off Stampede Park.

2002:

  • Stampede School was opened after a successful trial period. Today, students from grades three to twelve can participate in week-long programs where they learn about western values and history through demonstrations, talks, displays and various tours throughout Stampede Park.

2005:

  • The Stampede’s celebration of Alberta’s Centennial included: the book Celebrating the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede by Joan Dixon and Tracey Read which updated the Stampede’s official history published in 1985; a scholarship for every child born in 2005 in Calgary; a commitment to build a Habitat for Humanity house for five years; and the establishment of the Western Legacy Awards to honor individuals and organizations that promote and preserve western heritage and values.
  • An environmental committee was formed to address the growing need to minimize the organization’s environmental footprint though recycling, reducing and adopting operational practices that respect our land, water, and air. Leading-edge environmental practices remain an integral part of the Stampede today.

2006:

  • A new invitational rodeo format was introduced, and the showdown prize money for the major rodeo events was increased from $50,000 to $100,000.
  • The “Get Your Head in a Hat” program gave away 18,000 hats. Over 100,000 other rewards were randomly given to locals and visitors for dressing western. Dressing western was started by Guy Weadick in 1912 who encouraged and offered cash prizes for the best dressed cowboys, cowgirls, Indians and even store fronts.
  • Construction of the new Stampede Casino began. The Casino moved from the Big Four building to its new home in the northwest corner of Stampede Park by February, 2008.
  • Land acquisitions increased Stampede Park to 193 acres.

2007:

  • A new 100-year lease was signed with the City of Calgary. Work began on the $50 million expansion of the Roundup Centre, and by 2009 an additional 50,000-square-feet of exhibition space was opened.

2008:

  • The Public Art program was launched with a mandate to create 10 heroic-sized bronze sculptures for Stampede Park and other locations in Calgary.
  • Joe Carbury, the voice of the Rangeland Derby for 45 years, retired and Les McIntyre was selected to take over the reins the following year.
  • The Stampede helped celebrate Quebec’s 400th anniversary with pancake breakfasts and Stampede spirit events held at Quebec City’s Winter Carnival, later reciprocated with Quebecois events held during Stampede.
  • Rodeo Royal was moved to October accompanied with a name change to the Canadian Rodeo Tour Championship.
  • The last thoroughbred horse race was held at Stampede Park on June 15, ending an event stretching back to 1891.

2009:

  • Rodeo prize money topped $2 million attracting the strongest field of contestants ever including 40 reining and past champions.
  • In June, the Roundup Centre was renamed BMO Centre.
  • A tunnel beneath Spiller Road at the southeast corner of Stampede Park, leading to a distinctive cable-style bridge across the Elbow River were completed efficiently bringing traffic from 25th Avenue SE into Stampede Park.
  • The WorldSkills Calgary competition was hosted with hundreds of trades people interacting and competing in front of thousands of students and interested parties.

2010:

  • The Canadian Rodeo Tour Championship was cancelled due to continuing lack of attendance, bringing an end the second yearly rodeo approximately 48 years after its introduction.

Arena Directors of the Stampede

1912-1932 Guy Weadick
1933-1946 Jack Dillon
1947-1969 Dick Cosgrave
1970-2001 Winston Bruce
2002-2006 Robin Burwash
2007- Keith Marrington

General Managers of the Stampede
(Chief Executive Officer)

1903-1906 Charles W. Peterson
1907-1940 Ernie L. Richardson
1940-1951 J. Charles Yule
1952-1965 Maurice E. Hartnett
1965-1970 Irv Parsons
1971-1979 Bill Pratt
1980-1992 Don Jacques
1993-2003 Steve Edwards
2004- Vern Kimball