In 1884 Calgary became home to 500 people and was incorporated as a town. They formed the Calgary and District Agricultural Society who produced the first fair in 1886.

The Society purchased 94 acres on the Elbow River and developed the site with a race track, cattle sheds and an exhibition building and this site has been the site of the Calgary Exhibition ever since.

In 1908 the site was improved with a roofed grandstand, an exhibits building, barns and a livestock exhibits building. In 1911 a new livestock and horse show arena was built and a new betting system was introduced.

In 1912 Guy Weadick started the first “Frontier Days and Cowboy Championship Contest” that came to be known as the Calgary Stampede. He returned to Calgary in 1919 to produce a 2nd Stampede, “the Victory Stampede”, to commemorate the end of World War 1.

In 1923 The Calgary Stampede joined with the Calgary Industrial Exhibition to become the “Calgary Exhibition & Stampede.” Guy Weadick moved to Calgary to produce an annual Stampede and convinced several working ranches to enter their roundup crews and authentic chuckwagons into the first Rangeland Derby Stampede, the first chuckwagon race.

Each chuckwagon outfit consisted of 4 horses, a fully loaded chuckwagon, a driver and 4 helpers. They were required to ride a figure eight around barrels, following a specific route back to their starting barrel positions to set up a new camp, unhook their horses from the wagon, complete various tasks and start a fire. The first one to show smoke decided the winner.

During the following years the numbers of entries varied from less than twenty to more than forty wagons. In 1975 the Stampede committee decided to limit entries to the top 32 outfits from the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.

This changed again in 1979 with the CPRA strike when the pros where replaced with Independent Drivers and members of the Northern Chuckwagon Association. In 1982 the pros where invited back to join the others in the Stampede races. Over the next few years Independent drivers were eliminated and the top 18 drivers from each association automatically qualified. Recently the Stampede has invited the top 12 outfits from the previous year's Derby to join selected drivers from the two professional circuits.

All Canada’s professional cowboys are represented by the CPA (Cowboys Protective Association). The WPCA (World Professional Chuckwagon Association) the senior circuit, is a breakaway division of the CPA . The CPA chuckwagon racing circuit started in 1949 when it crowned its first champion.

How did the chuckwagon originate? The original chuckwagon was used as a hospital unit during the last stages of the American Civil war by the Union army surgeons. The wagon was a light, sturdy canvas covered wagon with an upright chest of medical supplies attached to the back. The end gate was hinged protecting the chest and could be lowered to use as a dispensary or as an operating table for casualties.

As time passed the original Stampede grew, in the 1950’s an additional 15 acres was added to the original site, the Stampede Corral was completed and the Big 4 Building including exhibition space and a curling rink, was opened.

In 1974 a larger grandstand with a longer racetrack and infield was built. The Indian Village was relocated and Suntree Park was opened and the Kinsmen Elbow River Park was initiated.

In the 1980’s the Saddledome was built as part of the city’s bid for the 1988 Winter Olympics.

In the 2000’s a new Grandstand Stage was added along with a beautification project for the Elbow River Bank and Parks. The Roundup Centre was expanded, and 10 Stampede Sculptures were commissioned to be set in various locations around downtown Calgary. A Casino was added to generate year round interest for Calgarians and visitors.

Today the Stampede is an annual event taking place the 1st week in July and drawing thousands from around the world. The show starts on a Friday with a large parade through the streets of Calgary led by a famous celebrity.

In addition to the popular Chuckwagon races, there are agricultural and large animal exhibits, horse races, a nightly Grandstand Spectacle, an Indian Village, rides, a variety of exhibits, and of course the not to be missed Rodeo events with bull and bare back riding.

The atmosphere is electric as the whole city takes on the show and comes alive with people from all walks of life dressed in Cowboy and Indian outfits, dancing in the streets and free stampede breakfasts throughout the downtown. Stampede is celebrated at every restaurant and bar and at many retailers throughout the city for the duration of the show. Truly an experience not to be missed.

Author's Bio: 

My name is Avril Betts, I am originally from England and now a Canadian Citizen, I have over 25 years experience in all aspects of Travel and Tourism, including running an online agency for over 13 years. I hold a CHA (Certified Hotel Administrator) an internationally recognized accreditation and in 1996 hosted the president's wives luncheon for the G7 conference.

I have co-chaired Atlantic Canada Showcase an International Travel Trade Show, managed 450 volunteers for the Tall Ships Visit in July 2000, and was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia. In 1988 I founded the Country Inn Association in Nova Scotia still going strong today. I have been involved in numerous Travel and Tourism volunteer activities throughout Atlantic Canada and across Canada.

As an experienced speaker I have spoken and presented seminars to large and small audiences for many years on subjects ranging from Marketing and Sales and Life Skills to Tourism, Travel and Real Estate, and operating an online Travel business.

As a recognized tourism expert I am accustomed to working with tourists and passing on my knowledge of the various destinations to help them make the most of their vacations.

Don't hesitate to contact me with any questions or travel inquiries.