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Canadian History for Kids: Calgary Stampede

1908, June 29 – First Dominion Exhibition opens in Calgary; origin of Calgary Stampede.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at the Calgary Stampede.

Canada’s biggest fair! On June 29, 1908, the City of Calgary opened the First Dominion Exhibit. With its extravagant parade, rodeo and trick roping competitions, it was quite the draw. By 1923, it would be known as the, now world famous, Calgary Stampede.

In 1884 Calgary was incorporated as a town and the Calgary and District Agricultural Society was formed in 1884 to promote the town and encourage people to move west. The Society held its first fair on October 19 and 20, 1886. In 1889, the Society purchased land on the banks of the Elbow River. The area, which was called Victoria Park after Queen Victoria, was improved by adding a race track, cattle sheds and an exhibition building. In 1899 the Western Pacific Exhibit Company took over and the first agricultural and industrial fair was held. In 1901 the land once again passed back to the City of Calgary.

By 1908 the Government of Canada agreed to fund the Dominion Exhibition. The City spent over $140,000.00 to build six pavilions and a large track. The Exhibit drew over 100,000 people to its parade and rodeo as well as trick ropping.

Guy Weadick, an American trick ropper, participated in the Dominion Exhibition and in 1912 returned to the Exhibition hoping to bring some of the Wild West to the Exhibition. He was able to convince four wealth businessmen, Pat Burns, George Lane, A.J. McLean and A.E. Cross to invest in his idea. With their financial backing, he created the first Frontier Days and Cowboy Championship Contest. The contest brought in cowboys from Western Canada, the United States and Mexico competing for $20,000 in prizes. It also brought in over $100,000 in revenue.

In 1919, Weadock again returned to Calgary and with the support of E. L. Richardson, general manager of the Calgary Industrial Exhibition, as well as Burns, Lane, McLean and Cross, opened the Great Victory Stampede, which they named in honour of Canada’s soldiers returning from the War.

In 1923, the Great Victory Stampede and Calgary Industrial Exhibition amalgamate to become the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. Guy Weadick is now a Calgary residence and produces the annual Stampede at the same time as the Exhibition. He increases the Stampede to include chuckwagon races as well as holding other community attractions that exist to this date.

In 1959, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip make their first Royal visit to the Calgary Stampede. Prince Philip wears the traditional white cowboy hat.

In 2011, Prince William and his new wife, Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, visit the Calgary Stampede.

In 2012, the Calgary Stampede celebrates its 100th anniversary.

On June 21, 2013, two weeks before the annual 10-day Stampede, southern Alberta suffers massive flooding, leaving nearly all of Stampede Park under water. The Infield and track have to be completely rebuilt and many of the buildings have to be remediated. Nothing can stop the Calgary Stampede and it opens its gates on time to more than one million visitors over the next 10 days.

In all this time and through a number of expansions the Calgary Stampede has been located on the banks of the Elbow River in the City of Calgary. In 2015, there are plans to add another 30 acres along the River to create a city public park called Riverfront Park.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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