On today’s date in 1912, Guy Weadick opened the first Calgary Stampede, which was billed as “The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth” and “The Last and Best Great West Frontier Days Celebration.”
The city built a rodeo arena on the fairgrounds, where more than 100,000 people attended the inaugural six-day event in September 1912, explains a 1997 story published by The Calgary Herald. Hundreds of cowboys from Western Canada, the U.S. and Mexico competed for $20,000 in prize money, and the event generated $120,000 in profits.
While the first Stampede was held in 1912, the event’s roots can be traced back to 1886, when the Calgary and District Agricultural Society held its first exhibition.
The Stampede didn’t return until after the First World War, in August 1919, when it was billed as the “Victory Stampede.” It was then held annually from 1923 until 2020, when then event was cancelled – for the first time ever – due to COVID-19.
In late April, Stampede president and board chair Dana Peers announced the unprecedented move.
“It was not a decision we came by lightly, but it is a decision in the best interest of public health and safety,” said Peers, who added the organization is exploring potential events this fall and winter plus the 2021 Stampede.
At the same press conference this April, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called the cancellation “a punch in the gut for us all” despite being a public-safety necessity.
“To stand here and say there will be no Stampede for the first time in 97 years, well, that’s very, very, very tough.”
CALGARY STAMPEDE COINS
In 2019, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Victory Stampede, the Royal Canadian Mint issued a pure silver coin designed by Michelle Grant.
This historic “Victory Stampede” was officially opened by Brigadier-General H.F. McDonald, then commander of Military District 13 at Camp Sarcee in Calgary. It was only the second stampede ever held in the Alberta city.
Despite success with the inaugural event in 1912, the stampede didn’t become an annual affair in Calgary until 1923. A year after that first stampede, promoter Guy Weadick moved the event to Winnipeg and then to the U.S. and abroad until the end of the First World War.
In 1919, four Calgary businessmen – now known as the “Big Four” – invited Weadick back to Calgary to organize a “Victory Stampede” to mark the Great War’s end. As war-time inflation and poor crop yields jeopardized attendance, the city declared a civic holiday in an attempt to increase the turnout. That year’s stampede sold nearly 57,500 admissions – $1 for admission and 50 cents for a grandstand seat – but barely broke even, with no profits to distribute to its charity beneficiaries.
While it wasn’t a financial success, the Victory Stampede inspired the organization of Calgary’s third stampede in 1923—and every year since.
“The Calgary Stampede is an unforgettable celebration of Alberta’s pioneering spirit and thriving western culture,” said Marie Lemay, Mint president and CEO. “As this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Victory Stampede, this coin is also a great way to remember the soldiers who defended our freedoms and values in the First World War.”
In 2015, the Mint struck a $2 Fine silver coin commemorating the Calgary Stampede. The coin’s obverse, designed by Canadian artist Steve Hepburn, depicts a leaping bull with all four of its hooves in the air above a stylized cloud of dust. The Calgary Stampede logo appears below with cattle branding.
In 2012, the Mint also issued a 25-cent coloured coin, a silver dollar, a $50 silver coin and a $500 five-ounce gold coin celebrating the Calgary Stampede’s centennial.
Also designed by Grant, the coins’ central designs feature six-time world champion bucking bronco “Grated Coconut” ridden by a bareback cowboy.
Grated Coconut’s “CS” shoulder freeze brand and “G-65” hip brand plus the rider’s “1912” competitor number are all shown within a curling frame of intricate leather tooling inspired by the trophy saddle of Flores Ladue, who was the wife of Stampede founder Weadick.