Celebrating the Calgary Stampede Centennial
The first Calgary Stampede, held in 1912, was a tribute to Western heritage and values, and that’s a tradition that remains today.
Downtown lawyers and CEOs of multinational corporations trade their business suits for blue jeans and cowboy boots. Office buildings and retail stores are decorated with corral fence boards and straw bales. Country music can be heard on nearly every corner. Locals and tourists gather for free pancakes and coffee. Calgarians and visitors alike embrace the Calgary Stampede spirit and celebrate Western heritage and values. After 100 years, there is no end in sight for this amazing festival with humble roots.
Before there was a Calgary Stampede, the Calgary and District Agricultural Society organized an exhibition that was held in October 1886. In 1889, the Calgary and District Agricultural Society acquired 94 acres of land from the Dominion of Canada and built a racetrack, cattle sheds and an exhibition building. This land remains the site of Stampede Park today.
The Calgary Exhibition remained a modest annual event. Then in 1908, a cowboy named Guy Weadick performed in the exhibition as a trick roper. He was also a skilled promoter who wanted to create a tribute show to the Wild West. It took him four years, but he arranged $100,000 in financing from a group of influential ranchers and businessmen who came to be known as the Big Four: George Lane, Patrick Burns, A. J. McLean and A. E. Cross. With their financial support, the first Calgary Stampede took place in September 1912.
The six-day event was a success. Guy arranged for 400 head of Mexican steers and as many wild horses as he could find to be brought to the Stampede grounds from nearby ranches. The funding provided by the Big Four meant $20,000 in prize money drew top rodeo competitors from across North America, as it was nearly quadruple the prize money offered at any other North American rodeo competition.
Nearly 2,000 First Nations people participated in the parade, which was attended by an estimated 80,000 people – an astonishing number because Calgary’s population at the time was just over 60,000. The Duke of Connaught and Princess Patricia watched the Stampede from a viewing box built especially for the royal guests.