For 10 action-packed days each summer in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the very best riders, ropers, wrestlers and racers from around the world gather to show off their rodeo skills at the Calgary Stampede. Set against the backdrop of preserving and celebrating western heritage and culture, cowgirls and cowboys compete, tournament-style, for the big prize money awarded at the end of this series of contests while displaying all the skill and grit at their command.
Each day of the rodeo, women and men face off against each other and the finest quality animals to be found anywhere in such exciting events as barrel racing, tie-down roping and steer wrestling. Cowgirls and cowboys try to ride the saddle bronc and the bareback horse, as well as adult bull riding and junior steer riding.
Each night, events kick off with the GMC Rangeland Derby, the “world’s premier chuckwagon event,” as riders, wagons and horses thunder in racing heats that will shake spectators from their seats. Following the races is the TransAlta Grandstand Show, an “elaborate song and dance” extravaganza capped off by a “spectacular” fireworks finale that lights up the skies above the grandstands.
The entire event kicks off with a parade through the streets of the city to the fairgrounds, showing off floats, horses, riders and the “tradition, history and local Calgary culture.”
At the fairgrounds, visitors will find carnival rides, western-style food, western-style wares to check out at the market, and agricultural and First Nations exhibitions. Country music at Nashville North showcases performers like Johnny Reid and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. The Coca-Cola Pavilion has rock and roll music from acts like Nickelback and Marianas Trench. From the biggest bands to the up-and-coming newbies in the talent search contest, there is plenty of music to go with the rodeo action.
Calgary Stampede Rodeo background
The largest event of its kind, the Calgary Stampede Rodeo began in 1884, when the Calgary and District Agricultural Society formed to promote the town and “encourage farmers and ranchers from eastern Canada to move west.”
In 1912, several local businessmen, at the urging of an American cowboy named Guy Weadick, set up a “Wild West” rodeo show. This was a six-day event with hundreds of cowboys from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, gathering to compete for $20,000 in cash prizes. Despite the success of this event, town leaders balked at replicating it the next year. In 1919, after the first World War, they tried again, but it was not a success.
In 1923, the rodeo merged completely with the exhibition to become the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. It was not only successful, it became an annual event, still going strong nearly one hundred years later, still exhibiting the best livestock, still putting on spectacular shows and parades, and still showing off the skills of the best cowgirls and cowboys as they test their mettle in the roughest competitions for cash prizes of amounts considerably more than that first $20,000 pot.
The Calgary Stampede is a not-for-profit, volunteer supported community organization.