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Home to more cattle than people, a world-class rodeo and numerous small-town rodeo events, Alberta is about as Western as it gets, and attending the Calgary Stampede is one of the best ways to connect with that culture. Each July, the City of Calgary celebrates its Western heritage through this event, which is part rodeo, music festival, cultural exhibition and agricultural fair. Dubbed “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” the Calgary Stampede has deep agricultural roots.
More than a century ago, rodeo events provided cowboys with an opportunity to display skills they had acquired while wrangling livestock on the wild frontier. Today, agriculture remains at the heart of the Stampede, and the 102-year-old organization just completed the Agrium Western Event Centre, one of the largest projects in its history, in an effort to promote and educate visitors and youth about agriculture and rural living.
“The new Agrium Western Event Centre was designed to be the heart and home of year-round Western events and agricultural education at Stampede Park,” said Leah Jones, agriculture manager for the Calgary Stampede. “It means we now have a beautiful permanent building for the Stampede and agriculture competitions, as well as a place to house educational programs that will connect urban and rural audiences.”
The Stampede spent $61.2 million on the facility and related infrastructure, making it Canada’s leading dedicated Western events and agriculture venue. Agrium Centre replaces the Big Top Tent that sat on the Stampede Grounds for the past 27 years. During Stampede, it will serve as the new home for agricultural events such as 4H on Parade, the Heavy Horse Show, the World Stock Dog Championship, the Working Cow Horse Classic and the International Livestock Auctioneer Championship. The rest of the year, it will house events and serve as a venue for agricultural education.
Animal care experts were consulted in all phases of the design and construction of the facility, from the footing and pillars to the animal stalls and the arena base.
“Ensuring that the Agrium Centre provides maximum comfort and safety for both the animals and the guests was a top priority,” said Bill Fraser, a local farmer who served as a committee advisor on the project. “We’re excited about what this project will do for the Stampede and for promoting agricultural education and understanding.”
New educational programming for youth has been developed to run out of the new facility. The program, called Journey 2050, will focus on sustainable agricultural practices that will be necessary to feed the world’s growing population by 2050. The Stampede and Agrium Centre have hired educators to help host up to 70 students per weekday during the school year.
“We need to protect and preserve our agricultural heritage,” said Fraser. “The big agricultural events and exhibitions we hold in the Agrium Centre, combined with new year-round educational programs, will help bridge the gap between urban and rural.”
Things to Do at the Calgary Stampede
There is no better place to get a taste of the wild West and experience genuine cowboy culture than the annual Calgary Stampede. Here are some things to suggest to your clients who want to have a full, authentic experience.
Enjoy a Free Pancake Breakfast:About 100 pancake breakfasts take place during the Stampede, featuring free food and entertainment. www.freestampedepancakes.com
Get the Gear:To get the most out of the Stampede, you need to dress the part. Jeans, boots, shirts, hats and belts can be purchased at Stampede Park or at a number of great Western wear stores in the city.
Attend the Stampede Parade:One of the world’s largest parades will feature William Shatner as the 2014 Grand Marshall.
Watch a Performance at Agrium Centre:From stock dogs to auctioneers, the performances promise to be fascinating and agriculturally inspired.
Agrium Activities:Take a barn tour and check out agricultural displays and presentations in the Stampede’s special agriculture zone.
Enjoy the Show:The rodeo features performances by the world’s top cowboys.