100 Facts About The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth

Generally speaking, Calgary is regarded as being a conservative city -both politically and socially. But all of that changes come July when we roll out the hay bales, dust off our cowboy hats, and get down to the serious business of partying Stampede-style.

The Calgary Stampede, also known as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, is a 10 day annual event that celebrates Alberta’s western heritage and pioneer spirit. In the past 99 years, millions of people from around the globe have converged on the Stampede Grounds to take part in this world-class festival. From mini donuts and calf roping, to fireworks and line dancing, there’s something to suit everyone’s taste at the Stampede.

The 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede will be taking place less than 100 days from now, and this year’s celebration promises to be the best one yet. As a Calgarian who looks forward to the event all year long, I thought I’d help get you into the Stampede spirit by posting 100 things you might not know about Calgary’s most beloved cultural institution. By the end of the list you should be craving mini donuts (see #86) and planning where your new five foot tall pink teddy bear will live (see #66). Yahoo!

  1. The 2012 Centennial Stampede will be taking place July 6-15, 2012
  2. The first Calgary Stampede took place over six days in September of 1912.
  3. The Calgary Stampede is a not-for-profit organization
  4. The area where the Stampede takes place is referred to as “the Grounds” by locals (it’s short for the Stampede Grounds). Gettin ready to rodeo!
  5. The Stampede employs over 1200 people year-round
  6. 3000 additional employees are hired to help out with the 10 day event
  7. The Stampede annually generates over $345 million in economic benefit for the province of Alberta
  8. Over 2000 volunteers sit on the Stampede’s 45 committees
  9. The Calgary Stampede and the Calgary Stampede Foundation annually invest over $2 million in 12 youth programs
  10. Over 2,000,000 mini donuts are consumed at the Stampede each year!
  11. Every night the Grandstand Show ends with a massive firework display that can be seen throughout the city Young Canadians performing in the Grandstand Show
  12. The Stampede Parade kicks off the annual event -it begins at 8:55 am on the 1st Friday of Stampede
  13. In 1912, the Stampede Parade was led by over 2000 Aboriginal people in full ceremonial dress
  14. Chuckwagons have been a part of the Stampede Parade since 1923
  15. The Calgary Stampede Showband has led the Stampede Parade since 1971
  16. 350,000 people line the streets of Calgary to watch the Stampede Parade in person
  17. Over 2 million Canadians view the televised version of the Stampede Parade
  18. An annual average of 850 “parade-broke” horses participate in the Stampede Parade
  19. The Stampede Parade lasts for approximately 2 hours
  20. In 2011, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka Will and Kate) launched the Stampede Parade on their first official tour as a married couple You had to be in the VIP section to get this close to the Royals! Luckily I know people :)
  21. As many a bleary eyed Dad will attest, you have to either get up really early (4 am or so) or stay up all night to get a prime location on the Parade route
  22. Many workplaces give their employees either part or all of the day off on Parade Day
  23. The 2012 Stampede Parade Marshalls will be legendary country music singer and rancher Ian Tyson, and chiefs of Treaty Seven First Nations
  24. Many famous people have served as parade marshalls over the years including Walt Disney, Prince Charles, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, Lanny McDonald, and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
  25. The 2012 Centennial Stampede will feature nightly firework shows throughout Calgary’s quadrants (normally the fireworks are only set off in Stampede Park)
  26. Chuckwagon racers auction off the naming rights to their tarps each year. Not only does this help fund the racers, but it’s a great advertisement opportunity for the winning bidders.
  27. The amount of money raised each year at the Stampede chuckwagon tarp auction is seen as being an indicator of Calgary’s economic strength
  28. The 2012 chuckwagon tarp auction brought in a record $4,015,000 (the previous record of $4,003,500 was set in 2007)
  29. 12-time Calgary champion Kelly Sutherland holds the record for the highest selling chuckwagon tarp. It was auctioned off for $300,000 in 2012.
  30. Joe Carbury was the Stampede chuckwagon announcer from the 1960s until he retired in 2008. He started each race with his signature saying: “And…..they’re….OFF!” Everyone loves the chucks!
  31. The University of Calgary has an undergraduate course on the Calgary Stampede (I was in the inaugural class and it was awesome!)
  32. 70% of Stampede attendees are from Calgary
  33. The Stampede Casino needs 6 tonnes of coins to open
  34. The Stampede Grounds covers a total of 137 acres
  35. The Stampede is setting up a beach-themed area this year that features sand, tiki huts, and surfing demonstrations.
  36. 27 teepees are set up on the Stampede Grounds each year
  37. For every $1 spent at the Stampede, an additional $2.65 is spent in the city of Calgary (on things like hotel rooms, taxis, etc.)
  38. If you want to dress like a local, you have to get your head into a Smithbilt cowboy hat.
  39.  The birth rate in Calgary spikes each April -nine months after the Stampede.
  40. Over 20,000 Stampede posters are distributed across the globe each year
  41. The first free Stampede pancake breakfast was held in 1923 when chuckwagon driver Jack Morton, who was camping outside the CPR train station in downtown Calgary, invited friends/Calgarians/tourists (basically anyone who walked by) to his camp for a pancake breakfast. Thus the tradition was born!
  42. Free pancake breakfasts can be found all over Calgary during Stampede week, and the local newspapers publish the times and locations. If you did a bit of planning, you could eat for free the whole 10 days!
  43. Flapjack Finder is an app that lists all of Calgary’s free Stampede pancake breakfasts (the app is free, and can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store)
  44. In the first Stampede, women were allowed to compete in the following rodeo events: saddle bronc riding, trick riding, and fancy roping Barrel racing at the Stampede
  45. In the contemporary rodeo, women are only allowed to compete in barrel racing
  46. Over 100,000 people attended the first Stampede
  47. The first Stampede rodeo gave out $20,000 in prizes to competitors
  48. American trick roper and promoter Guy Weadick was the driving force behind the first Calgary Stampede. He continued to run the Stampede for the next 20 years.
  49. Guy Weadick convinced Calgary businessmen Pat Burns, A.E. Cross, A.J. MacLean, and George Lane to put up $100,000 to hold the first Stampede
  50. The businessmen mentioned above came to be known as the Big Four, and there is a building on the Stampede Grounds named in their honour
  51. Every year the food sold on the Stampede Midway gets a little crazier. Some memorable items include the donut burger, deep-fried cola, hot dog poutine, alligator pizza, and any/everything you can imagine on a stick.
  52. Major musical groups always make an appearance at the Saddledome during Stampede week (you can see them for a fee, of course). Some examples include Reba McIntyre, Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Rod Stewart, No Doubt, and Coldplay (among tons of others).  Reba performing at the 2009 Stampede
  53. Up-and-coming musical acts put on free shows at the Coca-Cola Stage nightly, which is just inside the entrance to the Grounds. Some bands that have graced this stage include Mother Mother, Finger Eleven, Tokyo Police Club, Martina McBride, OK Go, the Trews, One Republic, Nelly Furtado, and Corb Lund.
  54. You can also find live music on the Grounds at the ever-popular bar Nashville North. But if you have any plans on getting into this hot spot, prepare to be in the doors by 11 am or you’re guaranteed to have at least a two hour wait in line. For real.
  55. Local radio stations sell backpacks on the Grounds that are full of coupons and junk food. You’ll see these bags around the city for months and months after the Stampede ends.
  56. The Stampede has its own royalty: each year one Stampede Queen, two Stampede Princesses, and one Stampede Indian Princess are elected to represent the Stampede at numerous local and international events.
  57. Patsy Rodgers became the first Stampede Queen in 1946
  58. Each year the five nations of the Treaty 7 create an “Indian Village” at the Stampede near the banks of the Elbow River
  59. Indian Village features teepees, pow-wows, arts and crafts displays, demonstrations of traditional life, and a food kiosk that sells items such as bannock
  60. In 2013, Indian Village will be relocated and expanded to twice its current size
  61. In downtown Calgary, Olympic Plaza is transformed into Rope Square each Stampede. From square dancing demonstrations to free concerts, it’s one of the liveliest places to catch free events off the Grounds.
  62. The Calgary Stampede is the highest grossing Canadian festival in terms of economic impact
  63. An amazing array of Western-themed art is on display (and for sale) on the Grounds in the Western Oasis section
  64. In 2011 a poll found that 40% of Calgarians who intended to attend the Stampede expected to spend between $150-$400 at the event
  65. Shopping is a major part of the Stampede experience. You always know what product is the best seller because you’ll see hundreds of them walking around the Grounds (think Sham Wow type items).
  66. Huge prizes are up for grabs at the games on the Midway. It’s easy to spot the biggest spender because they’re stuck lugging around a four foot teddy bear all day. Will he win an iPod? Nope, not a chance.
  67. Animal rights groups routinely protest the Stampede, arguing the rodeo promotes animal cruelty
  68. In 2011 animal rights groups urged the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to cancel their visit to the Stampede. Instead, the couple participated in a private demonstration of rodeo and chuckwagon events.
  69. Calgary loves the Stampede so much that we named our CFL football team the Stampeders
  70. One of Calgary’s nicknames is “Stampede City” and at least one local company uses that as the name of their business
  71. The Stampede Market (located in BMO Centre) features just under 200 vendors selling everything you could possibly imagine
  72. In 1971 the Stampede Showband was formed to serve as musical ambassadors for the event
  73. The Showband performs all over the world on a year-round basis, and makes more than 100 appearances at the Stampede alone. If you walk the Grounds for a few hours, you’re bound to run into them along the way. Stampede Showband performing in the 2011 Parade
  74. The Stampede Showband has been named the world champion of marching bands twice
  75. If you want to eat like a real cowboy while you’re in Calgary, prairie oysters are on the menu at Buzzards restaurant
  76. When getting dressed to attend the Stampede, don’t forget to put on cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, and jeans. If you aren’t dressed Western, you will stick out like a sore thumb. Trust me on this one. Cowboy hats galore!
  77. One of the best aspects of Stampede is seeing how decked out the whole city becomes for the 10 day event. Stores are decorated with hay bales and painted windows, suits are traded for cowboy hats and jeans, and you can’t go an hour without hearing at least one person shout “Yahoo!!”
  78. Even if you go all year without looking at a calendar, you know Stampede is just around the corner when flags start to go up on all of the city’s main roadways
  79. The Calgary Stampede Rodeo gives out over $2,000,000 in prizes over the 10-day event, making it the richest tournament-style rodeo on earth
  80. The men’s rodeo events include bareback, saddle bronc, steer wrestling, tie down roping and, everyone’s favourite, bullriding
  81. The rodeo takes place every afternoon at 1:15 pm, and the finals are held on the last Sunday of the 10-day event
  82. Entry to the Grounds is free when you purchase a ticket to the rodeo, chuckwagon races, or a concert at the Saddledome
  83. The Stampede has special value days, where certain groups (such as seniors) can enter the Grounds at a discounted rate
  84. The chuckwagon races take place every evening, and are followed by the Grandstand Show. The event begins at 7:45 pm.
  85. Just under half of all Calgary Stampede volunteers have lent their time to the event for over 10 years
  86. It is illegal to leave the Stampede Grounds without consuming mini donuts
  87. Many local charitable organizations sell lottery tickets on the Grounds for prizes such as homes, cars, RVs, motorcycles, and other big ticket items
  88. Numerous agriculture-related events take place on the Grounds each day such as cutting horse competitions, livestock auctioneer championships, heavy horse pulls and stock dog championships
  89. Taking a trip on the Skyride is the best way to get a birds-eye view of the Grounds while giving your feet a much-needed rest Bird's eye view of the Grounds from the Skyride
  90. Over 60,000 people enjoy the free Stampede breakfast at Chinook Centre each year
  91. Alcohol consumption goes way up in Calgary during Stampede, and waitresses/bartenders can easily make over $5000 working during the event
  92. Some Calgarians take time off from their regular jobs to work in bars during Stampede because it is so lucrative
  93. For corporate Calgary, Stampede consists of 10 days of public relations parties and client meetings that run from early morning to well after midnight. It’s one of the most important times of year for business development and corporate relationship maintenance.
  94. Legend has it that divorce rates in Calgary are unusually high in August -right after the 10-day madness of Stampede ends…
  95. If you’re looking to line dance off the Grounds, a visit to Ranchman’s during Stampede is a must
  96. While yeehaw is acceptable under certain circumstances, yahoo is the official greeting of the Stampede
  97. Calgarians really do have a special section of their closet solely dedicated to Stampede clothes
  98. Although Calgary has over 1,000,000 residents, locals always run into someone they know on the Grounds
  99. If you’re looking for a break from the crowds, the Stampede’s best kept secret retreat is the wine bar within the Western Oasis. But please don’t tell anyone and spoil it for those of us in the know!
  100. Many Calgarians meet their future spouses at the Stampede…including yours truly! This is what real cowboys look like from behind...

4 thoughts on “100 Facts About The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth

  1. Pingback: Free Flapjacks for Days | Cultural Quirks

  2. Pingback: Calgary Stampede: The 1950s — The Golden Age | Chapter 5 | Calgary Herald

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