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‘Back in the saddle’: Calgary Stampede officials thrilled with 2022 return

Calgary Stampede officials said this year’s event started off with rain, wind and hail – but the community really came together for the first full event in three years.

Stampede officials met with the media on the final day of the 2022 Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth for a recap of the prior nine days.  

To start, President and Chairman of the Board, Steve McDonough, said they were thrilled with this year’s turnout. While it won’t hit the record 1.4 million visitors, they expected to break 1.2 million.

“After nine successful days, and one day of Stampede 2022 left, I think it’s fair to say the Stampede in Calgary is back in the saddle,” he said.

It started officially on July 8, with an estimated record-breaking crowd of more than 305,000 to see the Kevin Costner-led parade. That was followed up by a record-breaking day of attendance.

The weather cooperated – though a bit hot some days – but Calgarians, Albertans and visitors from around the world converged on Calgary for the event.

McDonough talked about the powwow competition, the Nashville North, the inclusive events like the Stampede Drag Brunch, the salute to Canada’s Armed Forces, the Community Day and BMO Kids Day. He also mentioned the groundbreaking for the SAM Centre – a year-round interpretive centre for western heritage.

“It’s time to reflect on all the experiences and memories that our community created in the past 10 days. 2020 and 2021 were challenging years for our organization, as it was for many of our community members and local businesses,” he said.

“But looking at all of the celebrations of our western heritage and culture that took place in the past 10 days, not only on Stampede Park, but out in the community, it is truly heartwarming.”

Kickstart to the economy

McDonough said he noticed the positive vibe in the city during the Stampede. Hotels are full, restaurants were busy, as was local shopping.

“Not only is that good for our economy, but I believe there’s a positive spillover to the general community spirit and mental health,” he said.

“Our community was ready to gather together again and gather we did.”

Calgary Stampede CEO Joel Cowley said they’ve taken the customer experience seriously.

Customer surveys have shown the Midway remains the most visited attraction. The Stampede rodeo and the Grandstand Show are the highest rated. More than 50 per cent of respondents rated the chuckwagons a 10 out of 10, Cowley said.

Another bright sign, Cowley said, was that nearly 30 per cent of visitors came from outside of Calgary.

“That’s incredibly important from an economic impact standpoint,” he said.

Cowley said that 2022 was a year for them to turn the corner and get back on solid financial footing. In the past two pandemic years, the Calgary Stampede lost $34.3 million. He said when they initially budgeted for this year, they felt that one million visitors would be a break-even year.

Not everything was rosy

While they haven’t dug into the customer surveys on the downside of the Calgary Stampede, Cowley did say that he observed some challenges on the Midway.

With the BMO Centre expansion and the ongoing construction, the footprint of the Midway area was smaller.

“There were lines, there was congestion, particularly in the Midway, and no doubt the loss of space contributed to that,” Cowley said.

Cowley said they’ll have roughly the same footprint next year and it does impact the programming space they have.

A horse death also hit the Cowboys Rangeland Derby this year. One of Cody Ridsdale’s horses was euthanized after being injured in a heat during last week’s races.

Shortly after, PETA called on Premier Jason Kenney to end the chuckwagon races.

“Catastrophic injuries and deaths will be inevitable as long as the Calgary Stampede forces horses to pull wagons at breakneck speeds,” said PETA executive VP Tracy Reiman.

Reporters asked about Ridsdale’s involvement in an incident outside Ranchman’s nightclub in Calgary on Saturday. Cowley only said that Ridsdale didn’t race Saturday and wasn’t sure if he’d race Sunday. He didn’t comment on the alleged incident.

Despite some hiccups, Stampede officials were happy with the post-pandemic return of the Calgary Stampede. Especially the work of all the staff and volunteers to get the show back on track.

“I could not be more proud of our staff and our volunteers who have brought the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth back to life after three years, and we look forward to welcoming the community and the world to the 2023 Calgary Stampede,” Cowley said.

Calgary Stampede Day 10 – Recap

On its final day, the Calgary Stampede wrangled 107,389 visitors, to bring the 10-day total to 1,216,859. It didn’t quite eclipse the all-time high, but it’s one of the highest tallies on record.

It was also championship Sunday for both the Calgary Stampede rodeo and the Cowboys Rangeland Derby. Here are the rodeo winners (full results here):

Bareback – Rocker Steiner, Prairie View, Texas
Barrel Racing – Kassie Mowry, Dublin, Texas
Tie-Down Roping – Caleb Smidt, Bellville, Texas
Saddle Bronc – Logan Hay, Wildwood, Alberta
Steer Wrestling – Will Lummus, Byhalia, Missouri
Bull Riding – Dakota Buttar, Eatonia, Saskatchewan & Shane Proctor, Grand Coulee, Washington

The chucks were won by Kris Molle – his first as a chuckwagon driver. (Full chuck results here.)

  • With files from Aryn Toombs