Report by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
CALGARY, ALBERTA — While topping the centennial celebration of anything might seem daunting, Mike Casey predicts the Calgary Stampede in 2013 will be even more grand and spectacular than the 100th anniversary edition that wrapped up on Sunday night.
Casey, the Stampede president, says the event is always looking to excel and that’s one of the reasons it has remained such a success that it generates roughly $350 million in economic activity for the city each year.
“We have a very creative team and a lot of people dedicated to making each Stampede better than the last,” Casey said. “We will find a way to make next year even more sensational, I’m sure of that.”
The Stampede entered its final day having already attained record attendance, with 1,299,203 entering the Stampede Park gates prior to Sunday. The final attendance was 1,409,371, nearly 200,000 better than the previous record, which was 1,262,518 in 2006.
As a non-profit organization, the Stampede sends much of the money it brings in back into developing its production for subsequent years, which is one reason why Casey’s prediction of a bigger, better event in 2013 is likely to come true.
Although the Stampede retains the charm of a small-town fair, this is a big-budget, world-class event. Proof of that is in the dynamic “Century” Grandstand Show that ran each of the 10 nights of the 2012 Stampede. Built as a celebration of the first 100 years of The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, the $3.8 million production was simply epic, and wouldn’t look out of place as part of an Olympic Games Opening Ceremonies. It featured Cirque du Soleil performers, an amazing group of young Chinese acrobats, a massive fabricated eagle that soared up to the 500 level of the grandstand and was ridden by a First Nations hoop dancer. The show was headlined by country music star Paul Brandt, a Calgarian who grew up attending the Stampede as a fan. Brandt made his entrance in spectacular fashion. Like the soaring eagle, he appeared more than 100 feet above the stage, singing on a circular platform with a circumference of no more than eight feet. A strong wind would have pushed him off, it seemed.
“The Stampede means everything to Calgary,” he said prior to signing autographs for fans on Friday afternoon. “It knits the community together and celebrates all the best aspects of Western heritage that I try to promote wherever I go.”
On top of the grandstand show and the significant dollars spent on artists’ fees to reel in such country music stars as Garth Brooks and Brad Paisley, the Stampede also went all-out on a fireworks display that was unlike anything done in Canada before. On Fridays and Saturdays of the Stampede, fireworks were set off in the four corners of the city, at a cost of $1.5 million. Normally, $400,000 is spent on fireworks and special effects, Stampede organizers said.
Next year marks the 45th anniversary of the Young Canadians, a Calgary-based performance troupe whose reputation is growing and deservedly so. They starred alongside Brandt and the others during the “Century” show and more than held their own. Each of the 144 members of the group receives the equivalent of $7,000 in artistic training — one of the benefits of the Stampede revenue that gets re-invested into the event’s talent pool and staff.
The 100th Stampede has already been an economic force for Calgary. It played a role in the city receiving designation, and funding, as Canada’s Culture Capital for 2012 (a distinction in shares with Ontario’s Niagara Region). The city’s economy is expected to grow by 3.8 per cent in 2012, according to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce; Canada as a whole is expected to see economic growth of just 2.1 per cent, Bloomberg says.
“We’re very happy that we were able to showcase to the world the brand of Western hospitality and Western culture that defines who we are in Calgary,” said Casey, who will finish his term as president in March and turn the reins over to current vice-president Bob Thompson. “The Stampede has been about community from the beginning and it will be in the future, too.”