Special Events

STUPENDOUS STAMPEDE

The Calgary Stampede lasts only 10 days, but the planning is year-round THE CALGARY STAMPEDE - a 10-day extravaganza of rodeos, chuckwagon races, live shows, parades and entertainment - has come a long way since 1912, when it started as a rodeo on the outskirts of Calgary, Alberta.

In July, the Stampede set its attendance record of 1,218,851. An event of this magnitude requires months of planning. That's not to mention the yearlong activities that take place at 137-acre Stampede Park.

DAILY CHORES The Stampede employs a full-time staff of 225 to run the day-to-day operation of the park and hires 1,238 part-time employees for the Stampede, according to Jodi Johnson, media and publicity manager.

"We have people selling our venues on a year-round basis," Johnson says. "We have a catering department that provides food for all our events."

The park also has a casino and a performing arts school. Each year, 170 youths ages 11 to 19 become part of the Young Canadians troupe through scholarships in dance, vocal and gymnastics, Johnson says. The troupe performs during the Grandstand show at the Stampede. "We also have a number of agricultural youth programs. Kids can visit farms and learn about agriculture."

THE MAIN EVENT Johnson says the Stampede staff starts to plan the next year's program in September. Two months later, more than 50 volunteer committees begin planning their involvement with various events. "Every committee has a full-time staff member on it," Johnson says.

"There are a number of components that make up the Stampede," Johnson says, "and the main ones are the rodeo and the chuckwagon races."

A large midway offers rides and games. In a 100,000-square-foot covered facility, vendors display Western-themed arts and crafts.

The parade committee coordinates the 700 horses, 150 floats and more than 50 competing marching bands.

ON WITH THE SHOW One of the highlights of the Calgary Stampede is the nightly Grandstand Show Spectacular, which takes place on an outdoor stage. Each night, entertainers from around the world perform the 90-minute, revue-style show for 17,000 visitors.

Keeping with the Western focus, the theme of this year's show, "The Legend Continues," carried the Stampede story into the new century, production manager Tracey Read says.

More than 300 entertainers were featured in this year's show. Read says the Young Canadians troupe is the backbone of every Grandstand show. This year's other acts included a juggler, Russian gymnasts and a husband and wife acrobatic team from Belarus. Avery says the grandstand committee works with a $3 million (Canadian) budget to produce the show for 10 nights. A portion of the budget goes for the nightly fireworks-laden finale.

PASSING IT ON Johnson says 40 percent of Stampede attendance is made up of tourists, thanks to an extensive advertising campaign throughout Canada and the rest of the world. "We have a travel and tourism department responsible for attending various trade shows and meeting with travel agencies to get the word out. Plus we advertise in various publications throughout the world."

In addition, the Stampede maintains an informative Web site and distributes more than 35,000 posters each year. The Web site says the Stampede's direct economic benefit to Calgary exceeds $125 million annually. The Stampede has the backing of 16 major sponsors, including GMC of Canada and Coca-Cola. "They are called our Stockmen sponsors," Johnson says.

WELL DONE When it comes to determining the success of each year's Stampede, the staff doesn't rely on just record-setting attendance. "We do an exit survey as people are leaving the park," Johnson says.

Though survey results won't be complete until November, Johnson says the Stampede was successful in attracting a younger audience with hip bands and an interactive zone. "Everyone has been pleased with the new entertainment we brought in this year."

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