The first Calgary Stampede was held in 1912 and was attended by 75,000 people – 14,000 more than the population of Calgary then. Twenty thousand mounted Indians rode in the inaugural parade and encircled the entire city with their teepees. The prize money that year was an impressive $20,000 – paid in gold.
Today, the stampede is bigger than ever, and organizers work all year round to prepare for North America’s biggest rodeo, which takes place from the first weekend in July and lasts for 10 mighty days. Every year, the city of Calgary grinds to a halt and everyone goes cowboy mad. Calgarians even go to work in cowboy boots – even the police get in the spirit and wear cowboy hats on the beat.
White Hat Ceremony
To experience the true spirit of the Stampede,try and take part in the White Hat Ceremony,which has been a Stampede tradition since 1948, and it’s Calgary’s equivalent of giving the participants the key to the city. The white cowboy hat is a metaphor for Calgary and its people. Visitors can become honorary Calgarians through a presentation where they receive a hat and take a pledge, agreeing to spread Calgary’s brand of hospitality around the world. Honorary Calgarians are alsoencouraged to let out a loud ‘yahoo!!’
The first white hats were made in 1946 after the Stampede Board decided it wanted its citizensto wear cowboy hats during the event. The hats have been presented to heads of state, royalty, movie stars, and athletes. The 1988 Canadian Olympic team wore them marching into the opening ceremonies.
Native Indian communities have been coming to the Stampede since the beginning. Today, the pow wows are massively popular, and it’s the largest meeting of First Nations peoplesanywhere in Canada.
Pow wows are the Native Indian peoples’ way of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships – and makingnew ones. This is their time to renew thoughtsof the old ways and to ensure the preservationof their rich heritage. Although Native Indian communities have moved with the times and set up pow wows online, the Stampede’s popularity stems from it’s traditional approach.
The Indian Village represents First Nations peoples from the five tribes of Siksika, T’suu Tina, Nakoda (Stoney), Pikuni (Peigan) and Kainai (Blood) of Treaty 7. There are 29 teepees at the Indian Village. Many of the elders have been participating since they were babies and now bring their children and grandchildren. There are numerous demonstrations of native traditions and culture as part of the pow wow event.
Chuck wagon racing
The most spectacular event is the Chuck Wagon Championship races. It’s a spectacular event in which four teams of four-horse drawn wagons are loaded with tent poles and raced in a figure of eight and then around a single circuit of the track. The races are staged every night of the Stampede at 8pm.
Other exciting events include roping calves, wrestling steers, riding buffalo, tackling cattle as well as the usual bucking bronco.
Stampede breakfasts, an integral part of the festival, are held everyday all over the city. The breakfast consists of pancakes, bacon, and coffee juice served with country music; it’s traditional to attend as many as possible and they are all free to attend, so if you wanted, you could eat pancakes everyday for 10 days without spending a penny! To find out where they’re held check the local paper.
The official website with tickets, dates, activity information, and just about anything you could want to know about the modern-day event.