Calgary Stampede 100 Year Anniversary

June 18, 2012 by

Festivals & Events, North America, Things to Do, Travel Advice & Inspiration

If you believe its promoters, Canada’s annual Calgary Stampede is not only “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” but it’s also one of the most popular with over a million yearly attendees swarming on the city of Calgary in Alberta to witness one of the world’s largest rodeos.

Bucking Broncos and bull-riders might be the stars of the show, but there’s plenty more to the event than cowboys and chuck-wagons—the 10-day affair is a vibrant celebration of the region’s western heritage, with parades, stage shows, concerts, and agricultural competitions taking place at the Stampede park venue and the entire city transforming its storefronts and work-wear in homage to the old west.

With the first rodeo and festival, organized by American promoter Guy Weadick, making history back in 1912, this year’s extravaganza marks 100 years of the Calgary Stampede, and festivities are set to the biggest and best yet.

The 2012 100th Anniversary Stampede kicks off on July 6th, organized by a committee of thousands of volunteers. They’ll be a plethora of events to keep visitors entertained over the festival, but here’s a rundown of the key events:

The Parade

Calgary Stampede Parade

Calgary Stampede Parade. Photo courtesy of Danteling via Flickr.

The official opening of the Calgary Stampede starts at 9am on the first Friday, with an elaborate parade of marching bands, Royal Canadian Mounted Police troops, First Nations Dancers, and participants from all over the world. With Prince William and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, heading up last year’s parade, the competition was on to bring something special to mark the 100-year event and so the 2012 Centennial Parade Marshal, Canadian country music legend Ian Tyson, will be joined by 7 honorary Parade Marshals from each of the Treaty Seven Nations, followed by about 150 colorful floats.


Bull riding

Bull riding. Photo courtesy of Laszlo-photo via Flickr.

A celebration of the west wouldn’t be complete without a rodeo, but this is one of the world’s biggest, most famous, and most popular amongst both viewers and entrants—unsurprising considering the $100,000 prize for each discipline and its national TV broadcast. Hopeful cowboys and girls take part in events like bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, saddle bronc, and bareback riding, including junior and novice events for future stars-in-waiting to cut their teeth. The daily competitions will feature some of the world’s toughest contenders, with bulls and horses bred especially for the event by the Stampede Ranch and a crowd of animated spectators sure to stir up a healthy dose of cowboy bravado.

Chuck-wagon racing

Chuck-wagon racing

Chuck-wagon racing. Photo courtesy of Calgary Reviews via Flickr.

If you like your sports fast and furious, the hugely popular chuck-wagon races should be right up your street, an event credited to being invented by the Stampede’s creator back in 1923. The menacingly nicknamed ‘half-mile of hell’ plays host to the annual Rangeland Derby, where horses pound the tracks at break-neck speeds, dragging their riders behind them in lightweight wagons engulfed in clouds of dust. With $1 million of prizes up for grabs you can be sure that the race to the finish will be as frantic and frenzied as ever.


Grandstand Show Stage

Grandstand Show Stage. Photo courtesy of Calgary Reviews via Flickr.

Nobody knows how to party like a cowboy and Centennial celebrations are set to be the biggest that the Stampede has ever hosted. Country music superstars Garth Brooks and Johnny Reid will be performing at the Stampede Saddledome Concerts and the 2012 TransAlta Grandstand show will feature Paul Brandt and The Young Canadians, culminating in an impressive fireworks display on the final evening of the Stampede.

Arts exhibitions, agricultural demonstrations and fairground rides will keep the masses entertained in-between the main events, including a brand new midway ride “Outlaw”—named after the famed Calgary Stampede Bull—to celebrate the 100th anniversary. They’ll even be an 850 feet temporary zip line installed—the longest in Canada. Make sure you pay a visit to the Stampede’s new venue, too—the Bell Centennial Plaza will be at the heart of the part and dedicated to showcasing local talent. Even if you’re not at the events in Stampede Park, they’ll be plenty of parties and late night openings keeping the city lights buzzing into the early hours.

Don’t forget to try the pancakes!

Serving up pancakes

Serving up pancakes. Photo courtesy of ItzaFineDay via Flickr.

It’s not all about ejecting cowboys from their saddles, the Calgary Stampede is also an important way to bring together the local and international community, and in this city there’s no better way to get to know each other than over a pancake or a barbecue grill. The Stampede’s world-renowned pancake breakfasts are served up at hundreds of restaurants all over town during the festival. Head to the Chinook Centre for the largest turnout—volunteers here serve an estimated 60,000 people each year or follow the crowds to the equally popular Calgary Stampede Caravan.

Want to get in on the action?

A $16 ticket will get you admission to Stampede Park from 11am – midnight, with commissions available for seniors and children, giving you access to all events, concerts, and shows. If you’re on a budget, look out for value days, like the sneak-a-peak day on July 6th where evening entry is half price or special days where kids or seniors go in for free. Calgary is accessible via the Trans-Canada Highway, although international visitors will find it easiest to fly directly into Calgary International Airport.

Better ditch the formal wear too, as the dress code here is strictly western—think beaten-up cowboy boots, flashy belt-buckles and a mass of denim. Oh, and don’t forget your cowboy hat.

Book tickets to the Calgary Stampede 

- Zoë Smith

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