Feel good about your information and become a local news champion today

Calgary Stampede Grandstand show celebrates 50 years

This article by Krista Sylvester was funded by PatreonContribute now to help build a wider range of voices and stories covering our city.  – LiveWire Calgary: Run by Journalists, for the community.

For long-time creative producer Dave Pierce, the Calgary Grandstand show was his version of running away to the circus and over the years the show has had it all – from death-defying stunts to homegrown talent showcases.

This year is no exception.

Celebrating the special 50-year milestone since the Calgary Stampede started producing its own Grandstand Show with the Young Canadians in 1968, this year’s celebration is all about nostalgia and variety.

“I’ve been involved with the Grandstand for almost 30 years, so I’ve been there for over half of it,” Pierce said. “I saw my first grandstand show when I was 12-years-old, and it felt like I was running away to join the circus except my circus was the grandstand show.”

For Pierce, the annual Calgary Stampede show has given him an opportunity to grow artistically while working with some of the most talented people in the city. He credits 50 years of successful performances to the people of Calgary.

“I think that the biggest thing is that the people in Calgary have really embraced the Grandstand show and have shown that we are such a proud community for what we can do together. The Grandstand show is really a celebration of community,” he said.

Calgary Stampeded Grandstand Show celebrates 50 years. COURTESY CALGARY STAMPEDE

With that in mind, Pierce and director/choreographer Brian Foley created a variety of production numbers showcasing the talent of the 130 Young Canadians involved in this year’s production.

“These young performers spend the whole year preparing for this show and their talent is really what drives what we decide to put in the show in July. Every year is different.”

This year, in honour of a half century, the show creators have decided to take Calgarians on a journey through the decades since the Young Canadians were created and the result is an entertaining stroll through nostalgic memories that are Calgary’s alone.

There is a delightful roller skating scene set to the backdrop of the now closed Lloyd’s Roller Sports Centre for 1978 and of course a nod to Eddie the Eagle’s triumph during the 88’ Olympics. Eddie the Eagle himself makes an appearance suited in his original ski outfit.

The entire production is flanked by pyrotechnics, water and fire as well as the comedic talents of Drew Lynch, the magic of illusionist Darcy Oake and some unforgettable performances by Canadian singer Tim Tamashiro.

The Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show celebrates 50 years. COURTESY CALGARY STAMPEDE

Of course, none of this would be possible without host Rachel Avery, who has a very special connection to the Calgary Grandstand Show. Rachel’s father Bill Avery took over the show’s production from his father, Randy Avery.  Randy created the Young Canadians and the Calgary Grandstand show in 1968.

Avery leads the junior members of The Young Canadians in a production number to kick off the show and she shows off the talents she learned from being in the Young Canadians not so long ago herself.

“It’s been really emotional and nostalgic for sure,” she said of taking over hosting duties this year.

Avery remembers being just three-years-old when she attended her first Grandstand show and her own son is three-years-old now.

“It’s super intense – it’s really come full circle.”

But she feels right at home on the stage despite not being on it for 15 years.

“It feels familiar but it’s definitely a real rush.”

Tamashiro helps Avery with hosting duties and the crooner later joins Pierce in a musical tribute dedicated to Gord Downie, The Tragically Hip’s lead singer who died last year.

Of course, the show us capped off with its signature fireworks display by the best in the business.

“It’s really just a celebration of 50 years and we wanted to celebrate Calgary’s creativity, so we created this show with the people of Calgary in mind,” Pierce said.

The Calgary Grandstand show kicks off nightly around 10 p.m. during the Calgary Stampede shortly after the Chuckwagon races end.