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Calgary Stampede Parade History

Posted On: 17.07.07

Calgary Stampede Parade History*

The Calgary Stampede is known as the "Greatest Show on Earth" for a reason. This annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held every July in Calgary, Alberta. The ten-day event, attracts over one million visitors per year and features one of the world's largest rodeos, a parade, midway, concerts, stage shows, agricultural competitions, chuckwagon racing and First Nations exhibitions. 

As the official kick-off to the Calgary Stampede, the Stampede Parade has become a Calgary tradition. The two-and-a-half mile parade features colourful floats, lively bands, horses,  cultural performances and celebrity appearances. Here's a little history lesson on how it all got started. 

The First Stampede Parade**

"By 1912, Calgary had a track record of producing inspiring parades for its Exhibitions. Calgary’s population may have been only about 60,000 at the time, but more than 75,000 enthusiastic spectators lined the streets on a warm and sunny September 2 to watch the “Grandest Pageant of All History” – the parade that kicked off Guy Weadick’s first Stampede. A welcome arch was erected on Centre Street between 8th and 9th Avenues to greet the governor general and his wife. The parade was filmed and shown all over the world, setting the standard for legendary Stampede parades.

Weadick’s parade portrayed the history of the west in a chronological tableau format featuring sections of missionaries and Hudson’s Bay traders in Red River carts, old-time whiskey traders, North-West Mounted Police veterans from 1874 (labeled the “old Mounties”), cowboys and cattlemen, stagecoaches and settlers, with the young “citizens of the future” bringing up the rear.

Leading the way, almost 2,000 native people in full ceremonial dress created one of the parade’s most impressive entries. They had come to participate in the parade and the Rodeo, to camp and visit and celebrate.

The governor general of Canada and his family stayed with the Lougheed family and were invited to ride in their host’s car. In the lead section was Johnny Mitchell, the first mayor to wear a five-gallon Stetson and start Calgarians’ tradition of dressing western. He was no cowboy, but he knew his city and how deeply rooted the area’s western heritage was."

Parade Traditions

The Stampede parade has seen some interesting traditions come and go, while some have endured.

  • Through 1950, the “first white woman in the west” was always an honoured participant.
  • Contests for the best-dressed cowgirl and cowboy saw Flores LaDue (Mrs. Guy Weadick) win in 1912 and the Heron ranching/oil family in 1946, when they wore the first white felt hats made by Smithbilt, introducing the symbol of the west that resonates to this day.
  • Cowboys on horses liked to lasso unsuspecting spectators for fun.
  • Runaway horses provided some of the biggest excitement. Until riders were ordered to keep them in the centre of the street, horses wandered and were easily spooked by crowds.
  • During the 1940s, cattle herding was part of the parade, but the potential for a stampede resulted in that short-lived tradition being abandoned.
  • Chuckwagons have been in the lineup since 1923. Troy Dorchester, the talented wagon driver who followed in his father’s footsteps, remembers standing between his dad’s knees holding the lines as they drove the parade route.

If you haven't been to the Calgary Stampede Parade for awhile... make this the summer to check it out. It's a part of Alberta's history that's fun to experience and celebrate. Remember... it gets busy... so arrive early to get a good seat! Another Alberta treasure with a rich history of it's own is Ghost Lake. It is said that the name is derived from native tales of a ghost that prowled the river valley collecting the skulls of Blackfoot Indians felled by Cree warriors in battle. In 1873, the area was settled by Reverend John McDougall, who established a mission and cattle ranch near present-day Morley. The Hudson’s Bay Company also established a trading post near Ghost Lake in 1874.


*Wikipedia - Calgary Stampede 

**Calgary Stampede History 

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