The Calgary Stampede at 100

It may be over-the-top and at times dangerous, but Calgary’s Wild West show is the best party in Canada

A bronc’s tale

Photograph by David Campion

How did Calgary become the world capital of rodeo, the annual home of the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” the place most specially consecrated to the spirit of the cowboy? It is a rather odd circumstance: Americans must think something went badly awry on the map to have “Cowtown” end up north of the 49th parallel, in the old British Empire. It turns out that the whole thing was thought up by a johnny-come-lately who had nowhere else to turn.

Guy Weadick was born into a New York family of fast-talking Irish-American lawyers in 1885. That’s the year the last spike was driven into the Canadian Pacific Railway and Louis Riel helped the Metis stage their doomed bid for autonomy in the West. Weadick was only eight years old when the historian F.J. Turner blew the game-over whistle on the march of the American frontier. But with a head full of dime novels, young Weadick skipped Rochester to seek out the last cooling embers of the Wild West. The northern edge of the Great Plains is where he found them, spending time on Alberta ranches in 1904 and 1905.

Weadick developed riding and roping skills good enough to earn him a spot in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. Cody’s show and others like it brought the splendour and drama of the West to the world. But unlike Cody, the stylish, audacious Weadick was motivated by a sense of sacred mission: he thought the frontier should be commemorated in the West, for the West, with the world as invited guests.

Calgary became the venue for that dream because, when Weadick went looking for backers, the city’s business elite still consisted of cattlemen who mourned the open range and could remember young manhoods spent on horseback. The “Big Four” who bankrolled the original one-off 1912 Stampede are still revered, as is Weadick, in Calgary. The exercise was repeated as a war victory celebration in 1919, and within a few years the city’s flagging industrial exhibition was merged permanently with the Stampede.

Weadick’s generation of latecomers to the West included influential friends like Charles Russell, the dean of Old West painters, and Hollywood cowboy Hoot Gibson, who competed in steer roping at the first Stampede. Gibson starred in a hit 1925 silent movie, The Calgary Stampede, that helped establish the event as the de facto world championship of rodeo. Weadick insisted on driving this home with the highest judging standards and the biggest purses. They’re still the biggest in outdoor rodeo: today the prizes run to $2 million, including over $1 million for the Rangeland Derby chuckwagon races. (Although the derby is a particular target for animal-welfare activism because of the frequency with which it kills horses, it is considered nearly untouchable—not only because the event was substantially invented for the Stampede, but because the coverings on the wagons make it a big earner of advertising dollars.)

Bronc's tale

Photograph by David Campion

By the 1930s, the Calgary Stampede had become synonymous with rodeo competition; a 1933 print ad for Camel cigarettes uses it as a credential and it features the dazzling grin of double all-round Stampede champion Eddie Woods, who says “it takes healthy nerves to stay on board a fighting bronc.” By the 1950s, it was routine for the Stampede to attract both Hollywood royalty and the real thing. Performers associated with the West have followed Gibson’s example consistently in making the pilgrimage, from Roy Rogers and TV’s “Cisco Kid” Duncan Renaldo to Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall. The Queen has visited four times, including once in 1951 as Princess Elizabeth; the Prince of Wales was parade marshal in 1977, and his son, the duke of Cambridge, brought his new bride to open the Stampede last year.

Yet there are those in Calgary who, in their most secret of hearts, would love to abolish the Stampede and wipe out its memory. The Stampede, to the Calgarian, is both curse and blessing, and when all the curses are thrown into the balance, you cannot help being impressed by their weight. For starters, the Stampede kills. And we’re not just talking about the chuckwagon races. There’s a scholarly paper from 2006 in which statisticians from Montreal and Edmonton wrote about their efforts to develop forecasting models for EMS demand in Calgary. They found the numbers don’t quite work unless the Stampede is included as a variable: ambulance and rescue services become so busy during the 10-day party that it throws all the equations off-kilter.

The Stampede itself is very solvent, earning an operating surplus of $3.1 million in 2011, but if the costs and benefits to the city were all counted up, the former would have to include the salaries of the thousands of high-paid Calgary professionals who see major parts of their calendar devoured by Stampede preparations and aftermath. It would include the tacit outright cancellation of nine-to-five work for the duration of the Stampede at key Calgary oil patch companies and law firms. And it would include the arms race of conspicuous consumption that sees expensive entertainers like Cirque du Soleil and the Tragically Hip brought into town for exclusive corporate affairs at Stampede time.

Meanwhile, the perceived importance of the Stampede has led to the entrenchment of a shadowy, at least slightly sinister relationship between the city’s government and the Stampede board. It took a long skein of bailouts, sweetheart deals and low-interest loans from Calgary’s city government to make the show what it is today. Over the decades, Calgary has repeatedly used its power to borrow cheaply to fund Stampede expansions, and even expropriated land outright in the Victoria Park neighbourhood in the late 1960s when some homeowners were reluctant to sell. Because the city technically owns the Stampede grounds, the Stampede pays no property tax on them. Conflicts of interest are rampant and ignored, except on those occasions when the Stampede tries to pull off some particularly ambitious business or real estate deal. Local media know they must tread carefully before broadcasting or printing anything even slightly negative about the various entities that sustain the city’s totemistic event.

Of course the Stampede has made the name of Calgary world-famous. Calgarians abroad are as sure to be asked about their Stampede as Edmontonians are to be asked about their big mall. But the marketing effect is double-edged. Andy Sayers, a communications specialist for a mid-sized Calgary oil-patch-service company, says he and others in his field “struggle with themselves” every year as the bacchanal he compares to “the last days of Rome” approaches. “I spend most of my time trying to inculcate the image of our firm as ultra-modern thought leaders,” he says. “Then I have to create the invitations to our Stampede event. It’s tricky to wrap yourself in the blanket of the Stampede—to offer a down-home feeling to visitors without making yourselves look small-time.”

The lesser charges against the Stampede could be compounded until the indictment was as long as the midway. Health freaks carp about the way Calgarian arteries are insulted annually by a Black Mass of bad eating, one in which the unholy trinity of red meat, refined sugar and deep-frying all have starring roles (and, as with the surprisingly appetizing doughnut burger, occasionally all appear in the same dish). The pressure on emergency medicine created by the Stampede is matched, if not surpassed, by the chaos it brings to the city’s sexual health clinic. Some critics have complained almost from the beginning that the Stampede casts Indians, however subtly, as fossilized human curios. (As recently as 1968, Indian participants in the Stampede parade were politely asked to leave their eyeglasses at home, for fear it would spoil the patina of pre-Columbian innocence.) And then there are the sticklers for authenticity, the pedants who concede that, yes, the cowboy may have enjoyed a brief heyday in what is now Western Canada, but Stetsons are an odious Americanism, and white sure isn’t a very practical colour for a working cattleman’s headgear. (The white hat was introduced by local hat-maker Morris Shumiatcher in 1946 and became a symbol during the famous Toronto excursion for the 1948 Grey Cup.)

On the whole, however, Calgary wouldn’t have things any other way. Few cities, and none in Canada, have managed to create a homecoming/tourist attraction/feast of such magnitude and allure. Because no one individual owns or controls the Stampede, it is left to evolve organically, and has never suffered sudden top-down rebranding or repackaging. The components of the Stampede are allowed to wax and wane gently in popularity; as polite opinion has become more uneasy with the machismo of rodeo events, for example, the Stampede proper has become a fairly negligible part of Stampede week in the eyes of many Calgarians. Plenty, like articling student and long-time Calgarian Noel Jarvis, have never been.

“I’ve attended about 20 Stampedes and never bothered,” he says. “It’s not that I don’t like rodeo: I actually love going to the one in Strathmore, where I went to high school. It’s more meaningful to the community there, more integrated with its setting. There are hard-core rodeo fans in Calgary, but the rodeo events at Stampede are definitely more for visitors.”

On the other hand, nobody speaks ill of the pancake breakfasts that now dominate the week for many Calgarians, and that serve as something of a probe into the suburbs for the Stampede spirit. Improvised cowboy cookouts in the streets of Calgary were a feature of the Stampede’s earliest incarnations; pancakes signified resourcefulness, hardihood, simplicity. But as Calgary has evolved into a multi-ethnic capital, the concept of the “pancake breakfast” has proved unexpectedly adaptable.

The annual Ismaili Muslim breakfast was regarded as a Stampede essential since long before Calgary elected its Ismaili mayor, Naheed Nenshi. Granola types bring their own plates to the Healthy and Organic Stampede Breakfast, a highly regarded refuge for vegetarians. The Mormons do a breakfast. An animal shelter does a pet-friendly breakfast. Buddhist temples and synagogues do breakfasts. Consciously built-in “diversity” somehow just doesn’t compete with the real, uncoerced, unplanned thing.

University of Calgary computer science graduate student Leanne Wu, who just returned from her tenure as a Google Anita Borg scholar in Silicon Valley, warns against underestimating the power of such symbolism. The Calgarian Wu has, from childhood, seen the Stampede through an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of biography. “It’s sort of been a love-hate relationship,” she says. “Everybody becomes a bit disenchanted with the Stampede in their twenties. Before I moved away from Calgary for the first time, I was mostly interested in who was playing the Coca-Cola stage or Nashville North.”

Now, she is eager to be home for the centennial. It wasn’t just growing up and seeing what’s missing elsewhere that taught her to appreciate the Stampede: it was being in Calgary and having social responsibility for other graduate students from the four corners of the Earth. “They usually want to go all out at Stampede. They want the hat, the belt buckle, the boots. What opens their eyes to Canadian culture is seeing dal and roti served at a ‘pancake breakfast.’ ” Wu, whose boyfriend hails from Cochrane, Alta., adds that Calgarian urbanites and new Canadians alike might be scarcely aware that there was a Canada beyond the city limits if it weren’t for the agriculture features of the Stampede.

The Stampede, in other words, is a great devourer of contradictions. It celebrates the rural—while passing a million people through a 193-acre festival ground over 10 days. It brings reminders of pre-industrial innocence, with sponsorship from TransAlta Utilities, and glories in the beauty of pre-automotive animal power, with sponsorship from General Motors. It exalts the spirit of the cowboy, but was founded by men who exploited actual cowboys for every cent they could extract from their hides. It upholds the virtues of simplicity and making do, even as unseen billionaires guzzle champagne in hotel suites that would stun a sheik. It suffers the endless criticism of “animal lovers” who have never cared for a creature more complicated or intelligent than a budgerigar. It frappés together the fence-cutting American frontier individualist and the paramilitary, imperialist mounted policeman. It is equal parts Hollywood and Rocky Mountain House. Everyone should see and do Stampede once, but there is no hurry: it will always be there, every year, for as long as there is a Calgary.

All images from Cowboy Wild: Photographs by David Campion. Published by Rocky Mountain Books.




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The Calgary Stampede at 100

  1. In Roman times the emperor ordered wild animals slaughtered in the Colosseum for the enjoyment of the people. Given how many horses have been sacrificed for the thrill of the throngs at the Calgary Stampede over the years, I think the comparison is apt.

    • Looks like this is a East vs West thing; by the way how many race tracks are in Ontario

      • No, not everything is an ‘East vs West thing’. Stop playing victim.

        • If you did your research, you would actually find that most of the horses that take part in the Stampede have a much better life (if they would even have a life) being Stampede horses. Most are ex-race horses who would have been slaughtered otherwise. Please, don’t play to ‘accuser’ until you have the facts.

          • Well, I didn’t say anything about horses so that renders your point moot.

          • Janet, some of us question the intellect of the idiots who enjoy making life a little tougher for the animals BEFORE they are sent to the slaughterhouse.
            Coming from a rodeo town, I have to say that most of the people I know who didn’t make a quick buck off the drunken carnival, left town for the weekend. And the ‘riders’ were usually just drunks or idiots. I gather some of them have now turned ‘pro’, whatever the heck that is.

  2. “Consciously built-in “diversity” somehow just doesn’t compete with the real, uncoerced, unplanned thing.”

    Which is why elected officials are more diverse in Western Canada than in Central Canada which is obsessed with government mandated identity politics. Too much central planning even screws up being socially progressive.

  3. It’s an ordinary country fair, mixed up with somebody’s Hollywood comic book idea of the ‘old west’……something that never even existed in the US where the frontier has been dead for a century and a half, and certainly not here….our ‘cowboys’ played polo fergawdsake.

    Alberta is a primary resource economy….pre-industrial…and so it celebrates cows and oil and wheat etc much the same way the Saudis pretend and dress as though they still live out in the sand in tents, and race horses.

    The stampede has turned into a bacchanalia loaded with divorces and STDs, much like Saudi Arabia has turned into a 20′s silent sheik movie complete with drunken ‘princes’.

    Where people cling to the past, there is eventually no future.

    • Emily, you have limited knowledge of Alberta history or even what the stampede is celebrating. It isn’t celebrating the “wild west’. There was no “wild west” in Canada. People aren’t walking around with six shooters. It is celebrating the history of ranching and cowboys in southern Alberta. What the fact that cowhands played polo in their spare time has to do with anything is beyond me. However, they also did rodeo to showcase the skills they used everyday on a ranch. Skills like breaking green horses and roping cattle on the run. All of the participants in the rodeo are ranchers. Southern Alberta is full of ranches. That is why Alberta is a big beef producer and that is why we celebrate beef. We aren’t “pretending”. Those ranchers still wear cowboy hats to keep the sun out of their eyes and boots for safety reasons when using a western saddle.
      Certainly people party but they are consenting adults hooking up in bars. I am sure cheating on spouses and eschewing the use of condoms isn’t exclusive to the Calgary Stampede. I know that STDs are prevelant year-round.
      As for ‘clinging to the past’, doesn’t Ontario have a winter agricultural fair?

        • Hahahah. I read that article in the National Post. I think Calgary could use her op-ed piece to convince more people to COME to the stampede. I especially love it when these writers describe the lack of productivity over the 10 days because boses are letting all their workers go out and party…..what a drag!
          What I don’t understand is people like you Emily, who are all about promoting the Gay Pride parade in Toronto, which is if the photo-ops are any inidications, a real “party time”. However, then you turn around and look down your nose when Calgary is partying it up……because (horror) some sex might be involved. I thought you were about “live and let live”…..apparently not when it involves some people who might be straight. Well no worries, there is also a gay rodeo circuit! Yee Haw!

          • I’m not in Tourism, so I don’t promote any local tourist event….I just laugh that the partiers in Calgary tut-tut at the partiers in Toronto. Hypocritical.

            There are lots of events, festivals, parading, reenactments, fairs etc in Ontario……but the whole province doesn’t dress up to play cowboys and indians…..something that’s both creepy and hilarious.

          • I don’t recall any Calgarians “tut tutting” partiers in Toronto but here YOU are doing exactly that to Calgarians and everyone who parties at the stampede. Further, the whole province of Alberta does not dress up to play cowboys and first nations. Edmonton has its own celebration which follows after the stampede. Only people in Calgary wear blue jeans for the 10 days. If dressing casual for work is “creepy” and “hilarious” to you then you will have to explain to me why you feel that way. People in this city love throwing off their suits and ties and uniforms. As for the first nations people, they are the only people who dress in their traditional clothing at the stampede grounds. If you find them dressing in their tradiontional clothing “creepy” and “hilarious” and “clinging to thier past a recipe for a failed future”, you will have to explain that to them.

          • You don’t recall anything that doesn’t suit your myth….in fact this thread aloone is likely to keep you busy for days….first saying one thing and then refuting it when it’s pointed out. LOL

            Dressing up like cowboys and indians isn’t dressing ‘casual’ for work. It’s creepy and hilarious.

          • Emily…please point out where I said people wore anything but blue jeans to work. I said ranchers wear cowboy hats and boots due to the work they do. Yes, some people dress western. NOBODY, NOBODY dresses up as a First Nations person except a First Nations person. You will NEVER find in any article or on any blog where anybody says different because that isn’t true.

          • LOL nooo I’m not going to help you with your own points…you said this stuff, YOU sort it out. But I will tell you I’ve done business there with people in cowboy hats and boots who’ve never been within a mile of a horse.

            And they aren’t ‘First Nations’….they are ‘Indians’. I thought you said you read this…..you’re all caught up in the fantasy!

            ‘The Indian Village will stand
            much as it always has, filled with long white teepees and members of Treaty 7
            signatory nations, dressed in traditional garb — looking every bit the part of
            a century-old curio.

            Even the name of the village
            remains unchanged, despite the shifting language of the times.

            “The only one that can make it
            controversial is the white man. The Indian elders in the Indian village will
            tell you ‘I’m an Indian. I want to be called an Indian.”’

            http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/07/04/calgary-stampede-a-defiant-last-stand-of-the-politically-incorrect/

          • If First Nations people make that choice who are YOU or anyone else to tell them how to dress or what language to use? As I said before, NOBODY…No White Person is dressing up in the traditional clothing of any First Nations person at the stampede.

          • Now you’re arguing against your own straw man. LOL

            Hey, if you guys want to dress-up and play cowboys and indians, it’s fine with me….it’s just kind of creepy

          • Google Image Toronto Gay Pride Parade and Calgary Stampede, then let’s talk about creepy and hilarious. A man in well fitting jeans, boots and a hat is far from creepy looking …wink…wink….

          • Calgary also has a gay pride parade.

            Creepy and hilarious is grown adults playing cowboys and indians

          • Snipers are creepy. You don’t understand the culture, so you snipe instead.

          • That’s not a culture.

          • Ranchers, cowboy and equine culture exists out West and all over North and South America in a very big way whether you put your hands over your eyes and ears and utter ‘la la la’ or not. It’s incredibly myopic and provincial to think the world is only what you know, and it doesn’t sound like a lot from here.

          • That’s not a culture, it’s just farming…..something done all over the world since the dawn of the agricultural age.

          • You’re obviously not from around Calgary. Your edicts regarding the non-existence of multiple generations of ingrained layers of Western and cowboy culture, current, historic and existent, are only serving to make you look downright silly and sadly ignorant to anyone who lives and ranches out here. With that kind of limited thinking, it’s like saying that marriage is just a guilt-free sex arrangement. You purposefully ignore over a century of ingrained traditions and layers and layers of nuanced culture.

          • Farming is a commonplace everywhere in the world. It is not unique to Alberta.

          • Beef Ranching is big in southern Alberta. Farming is popular all over Canada.

          • Farming, ranching….same diff.. We have beef cattle in Ont too.

          • Farming and ranching are not the same thing but you are good at checking things on wikipedia so I will let you look up the differences.

          • Yup, same thing…..sorry.

          • Emily, I saw Justin Trudeau creepily dressed up as a cowboy today in Calgary. He seemed to be having a great time and he was wearing a belt buckle that he was fitted for when he was six when he and dad Pierre visited the stampede. Justin also had a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, plus a western shirt and blue jeans on. Please rate exactly how creepy and hilarious Justin is based on this revelation that he likes to play cowboy. Thankyou for your expertise in this matter.

          • I would care about Justin…..why?

          • You don’t care about Justin? All that gushing you do about him in threads on Macleans online means nothing? What about Bob Rae? He was dressed up as a cowboy in Calgary today too. You don’t care about Bob either?

          • LOL Justin is a politician….so presumably he was politicking (they do that you know) and I would therefore assume that if all you Albertans suddenly decided to dress up as bears….something that wouldn’t surprise me….. any national politician would do likewise.

            Come to think of it, Harp would look better as a panda than he does as a cowboy.

          • We’ve long established that Emily would have been in good company at the staff of a residential school. Her insistence that only her ways and culture are progressive and modern is eerily reminiscent of the attitudes in those institutions.

      • Thanks for the Insider point of view. I’ve never been to Calgary, so it’s good to hear from somebody actually on the ground.

      • Yup

      • She lived in Alberta for a brief time decades ago and feels that makes her an expert.

    • Does this mean we won’t see you and your high horse in Calgary this year?? Must be lonely in your world.

      • ‘Where people cling to the past, there is eventually no future.’

        Your problem, not mine.

        • While you read your psychology books, over a million people will be celebrating traditions and having a great time! Yee Haaaaa!

          • I don’t read psychology books….I’m in economic development.

            You don’t have any.

          • AHA, that sounds to me like the Dutch disease feeling.

          • Only if you’re unaware of what Dutch Disease is.

          • Yes I am. This is why some remarks about preindustrial economy etc. sound to me like an extension of Mr. Mulcair`s musings.

          • Well Mulcair never said anything about a pre-industrial economy….that was me.

            Dutch disease is here

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_disease

            And several economists have agreed with Mulcair on this.

          • I do not doubt that. So do scientists about global warming and its deniers.

          • EmilyOne where is your national pride ? This is an awesome, wonderful country with so much to offer everyone ! Just because something isn’t your flavour doesn’t make it creepy or outdated ! I am proud to live here and proud to be a Canadian ! Celebrate don’t diss ! As for guys in jeans and cowboy hats ? This redblooded Canadian girl will take that any day !

          • It’s a local fair…..not a culture, not an identity….and should never be a cult

        • Just to remind you Emily, Calgary was named the Cultural Capital of Canada for 2012…so who is clinging to the past….us or you with your false perceptions of what is really going on in this city?
          The Stampede is just a great party like Mardi Gras….a celebration of a rich history, not a defining statement of who we are. Maybe the fact that headoffices continue to move to our city in droves should indicate what our real future is.

          • LOL yup, the Feds named it as such and then cut off all funding for any future cultural capital.

            Hey, yer living the myth….no one else is

            PS head offices aren’t moving to Calgary in droves….or even bunches. LOL

          • Apparently I am not the only one ‘living the myth’….CNN voted Calgary one of the top five places to visit this year.

          • And Bob Barker said ‘shut it down’…..what’s your point?

          • Bob Barker also quit hosting the Miss America and Miss Universe contests because he is a vegan and they continue to give out fur coats. What is your point?

          • My point is it doesn’t matter what either CNN or Bob Barker say about it.

          • According to The Edmonton Journal, June 22/2012….”Calgary continues to establish itself as the most important head office centre second only to Toronto. According to the National Posts annual FP500 list…the number of head offices in Calgary jumped 11 by more than 11 percent last year to 137 with total revenues up by more than 30 percent or 337 billion.”

          • According to the Edmonton Journal? The place that thought it was the Klondike??

            Chinese oil offices Heh heh.

            And nowhere near Toronto….sorry.

          • Surely as an “expert” in economic development you know that the National Posts’ annual FP500 list is made up of “Canada’s biggest companies by revenue”. I don’t believe any “Chinese oil offices” are on the lists. Of course, maybe you are questioning the credibility of the National Post now. Given the great difference in population between Toronto and Calgary, I would never expect that Calgary would have as many head offices as Toronto, however, this evidence does support my assertion that head offices are still moving into our backward old cowtown.
            By the way, Edmonton no longer celebrates “Klondike Days”. They haven’t for many years. They just call it the exhibition now. That is okay Emily. I know you have been out of touch with what goes on in Alberta for decades. Believe it or not, we have real newspapers and real universities out here in redneck heaven. Some of us even have the internet.

          • Well you’re probably determined to keep this nonsense up all weekend, but I’m not interested in your fantasies and myths.

            And I’m aware Klondike days is long gone…. Revenue is down too….I liked the Steam Punk idea though….suits you.

            Newspapers? ‘Real’ universities? Both pretty much dead. Redneck heaven for shore.

          • Don’t you mean the fantasies and myths perpetuated by the National Post, the Edmonton Journal and CNN?
            Have a great weekend Emily! Yee Haw!

          • No, the ones posted on here by real live Albertans. Enjoy your jeans.

          • I always do!

          • (Don’t feed the resident green-eyed troll.)

    • Hardly.

      • Country fair….same as elsewhere.

  4. It is 10 days when ALL Calgarian workers wear blue jeans to work whether they are nurses, doctors or lawyers. No one wears a uniform or a suit. Offices downtown clear out at lunch. People in this city work very hard and so the bosses are lax during the stampede. Every company, hospital, community association, etc. has a pancake breakfast and/or bar-b-cue for its staff and clients or patients. There are fun and free things for kiids to do everyday.
    As for the rodeo being only for visitors, that is absolutely not true. I cannot believe that Macleans would interview a person from Calgary who has NEVER been to the rodeo for his opinion on the rodeo. The rodeo infield seats (on top of shoots) are almost exclusively occupied by local people. You will not see a better organized or run rodeo anywhere and of course you are seeing the top cowboys in the business. Without exception, these cowboys earn their living as ranchers when they are not on the rodeo circuit. The grandstand show is also fantastic year after year.
    Ranching in southern Alberta is still very prevalent. Cowboys on ranches still wear cowboy hats…stetsons, whether they are American or not. They happen to keep the sun out of their eyes. Cowboys wear cowboy boots. They make it easy to get your foot out of the stirrup if you get thrown…that way you don’t get hooked up and dragged by your horse.
    As for the sex at the stampede. The hooking up is happening in bars between consenting adults.
    As for the increased business for healthcare…it actually is quiet in the ER during stampede, the rush comes AFTER when people who didn’t want to miss the party come in to get those pesky problems dealt with.

  5. The Calgary Stampede is celebrating its 100th Anniversary, and the vast majority of locals are hugely proud of our thriving tradition. The constant non local use of the word ‘cowtown’ belies the far more prevalent, historical and extensive equine culture that’s carefully fostered and maintained with pride in southern Alberta. The cultural branding of the stetson hat was and is cowboy tradition that is the only choice (along with the boots) as the practical yet perfectly suited and accepted headgear to protect horsemen from the effects of unforgiving sun and weather. Calling it an ‘odious Americanism’ only reveals scribing regional ignorance apart from the noted fact that we’re actually all Americans, being that we LIVE in North America; but the eye rolling sniggly slight has been registered, as are the many others contained within. There were plenty of Stetsons around long, long before 1948. Ranches abounded, and still abound; and Alberta Beef is world renowned, along with Alberta Boots.

    Rodeos happen all over North America and elsewhere, and still would apart from the fact that The Calgary Stampede has worked itself into being the biggest. It really is the Greatest Show On Earth. Rodeos are a very old tradition where ranchers and crews display their skills and husbandry, livestock and horse training, along with a chance to get together socially and discuss their common shared field in a more social and challenging setting. The big purses draw and allow the most skilled rodeo athletes to advance themselves economically. No one grieves the loss of an animal more than the owners and ranches who raised them. Standards of animal husbandry at the Stampede are second to none. Loss is a downside of the field.

    Our local aboriginal groups are hardly ‘fossilized curios’ but rather are proud and excited to feature their historic traditional dress, singing and waning customs. First Nations members from all over North America are invited to, and do attend the annual in residence pow wow, talk to visitors from all over the world, and have the greatest show on earth in their back yard for ten days. Visiting and local groups who wish it are featured in the annual Stampede parade in all of their best finery. Being modernized and all, they understand the importance of keeping it alive for their children’s children and for posterity.

    Victoria Park was a decades old and mostly declining pre-war neighbourhood whose delapitating homes had seen better and glorious days. This mostly run down inner city area became rife with more and more condemned houses and growing criminal, alcohol and prostitution ridden rentals, with apologies to some long standing exceptions. It was getting scary to walk through there even back in the late ’60′s and early ’70′s, night OR day.

    Conflicts of interest rampant and ignored? Examples, please. Them’s empty fightin’ words from a conveniently sourceless non local scribe. Calgary actually prides itself for publicly announcing easing bureaucracy in its historic can-do way if at all possible when necessitated, with an encompassing and overwhelming group vision towards continuation of an hospitable, robust, economic and welcoming tourism industry that benefits thousands of Calgary businesses and its residents.

    As for it being founded by ‘men who exploited actual cowboys’, I would counter that around here, any ‘actual’ cowboys aren’t and never were afraid of a little hard work, and would sooner move on to better surrounds like a man than allow themselves to be exploited. Self determinism has always been big around these parts.

    As a Calgarian, reading this serves to underline the difference between seeing things as half empty or positively half full, like the majority of Calgarians do. It’s a great ten days, and if you’ve never been, and are willing to throw off cynicism, come on down! If you ask around the locals and find out where to go, it’s so much fun that you won’t believe it. The 100th is such a big deal that the legendary and reclusive Garth Brooks is playing in the Saddledome, along with dozens of other big name groups elsewhere. Yahoo!

  6. Only the ‘best party in Canada’ for the dull-witted and red-necked. It sure as heck ain’t no party for the other participants. What next, Alberta?
    Y’all wanna play gladiator and fight tigers and lions and bears? Oh my!.

    • Are you expressing concern for the 1 ton bulls or the bucking broncs? Those horses that don’t get picked for stampede end up in Europe on someone’s table or in Fluffy’s dog dish. You guys remember that when horses get “retired” from your race-tracks in Ontario.
      Calf roping might be a little suspect but those steers are hardly defenseless.
      All you vegans out there who have pets (Cats & Dogs), unless your pet is a vegan too, animals are being slaughtered to feed your pets. What does Bob Barker think all these house pets he is saving are eating?

      • This is just delaying their trip to the slaughterhouse. A cruel bit of sadism for a few ‘men’ before they’re shipped off to be slaughtered and ‘ending up on someone’s table’. Don’t kid yourself and don’t rationalize cruelty.

  7. Ah Calgary, where males who think they are men mistreat animals the same as they do their women. What a F#@%ed Up province full of Broke Back Mountain cowboys who think chuck wagon racing, bull riding, steer roping and all of the other cruelty to animal activities draw thousands of low life, blood thirsty folks to gather and gawk.

  8. “It suffers the endless criticism of “animal lovers” who have never cared for a creature more complicated or intelligent than a budgerigar.” Oh god….and you were doing so well Colby !!!

  9. To say that the Stampede is based on some false myth, and is perpetuating some fairy tale image of the cowboy, that Calgary is not related to, is disingenuous.

    The fact is that the Stampede is based on rodeo traditions that ranchers promoted all over the West, not just Alberta. Even today, most rural communities in Alberta, and plenty in BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and even some in Ontario and Quebec, sustain annual rodeo festivals. They promote and celebrate skills that, even today, in this modern age, ranchers use running their businesses.

    And to say that it is not relevant to the urban dwellers of Calgary (or any other Alberta city or town) is, again, disingenuous. I personally know at least 3 business owners (1 in high-tech, 1 in oil, and 1 a big-time lawyer) who farm and run ranches on the side. It is their family heritage…where they came from…and is why rodeo is relevant to them, and many other urban dwellers.

    I personally think this is why the Calgary Stampede has been the success it has, because it is still relevant, both due to the continuing rodeo traditions of the region, as well as being in the blood of most native Westerners.

    I was born and bred an Edmontonian, and while I have lived elsewhere on a few occasions, I have been back in Edmonton for 15 years. Saying that, I have never lived in Calgary, but I have celebrated at the Calgary Stampede most of my 49 years. It is easier to connect with the image of the Stampede than any other cities major annual event. I once enjoyed the connection to the old Klondike that Edmonton used to promote at Klondike Days, but as there is no more gold rush, and there are precious few people panning for gold these days, the relevance has long been lost for most people. This summer, the city of Edmonton is having another contest to rename its annual exposition. It is trying to connect with its customer base, but is struggling to do so.

    The fact that there still is a genuine rodeo culture in Alberta, along with so many people having rural roots, I believe, is what has allowed the Stampede to continue its success for so long. The festival of Stampede may be able to be traced back to an American promoter, but even that gentleman connected with the image as part of his own experience working on a ranch. It is an image that many of us can relate to, and it is an image that is based in reality, not just some Hollywood stereotypes.

    You can throw mud, and call Albertans red necks, but you will struggle to find urban cultures who readily accept immigrants so easily, who’s immigrant citizens so quickly involve themselves in the local traditions, and where civic leaders are from such diverse backgrounds. This is a province that was settled by Easterners and immigrants, and it is a province that still welcomes these hard working people to be part of its success.

    There will always be haters, but the fact that the Stampede is 100 years old, and is still growing, is a testament to its allure.

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