It’s Official—Kevin Costner Will Be This Year’s Calgary Stampede Parade Marshal
...But he's not the first celebrity to add Hollywood sparkle to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
Photo: Calgary Stampede
The Calgary Stampede has always been a star-studded celebration
Star acts have always been a draw to the Calgary Stampede, especially during its golden age in the 1950s. That was when the Rockettes kicked their way into the festival and Bing Crosby was named “parade marshal,” a prestigious title granted to performers, politicians and athletes who embody the spirit and values of the 10-day event. This year, Kevin Costner, who portrays John Dutton on Yellowstone, a modern-day western filmed in the Rockies, has been granted the privilege.
The parade kicks off the first Friday of Stampede at 9 a.m. sharp. Following the parade, guests can score free admission to Stampede Park between 11 and 11:30 a.m. If you miss the parade, try to catch Costner and his band, The Modern West, performing on July 8 at the Stampede’s Virgin Plus Stage.
Read on for more fascinating Calgary Stampede facts most people don’t know.
The Calgary Stampede is one of Canada’s largest music festivals
Each year, more than 60 musical acts perform on the grounds of the Calgary Stampede. Add to that the dozens upon dozens of acts that hit Calgary’s National Music Centre and other venues throughout Cowtown over the course of the 10-day event, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a music fest. Be sure to check out the Coca-Cola Stage—free with admission to Stampede Park—where acts such as the Barenaked Ladies, Nelly Furtado and Marianas Trench have performed. This year, visitors will be treated to live shows from July Talk, Tokyo Police Club and Carly Rae Jepsen.
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Enormous amounts of carnie grub are consumed
From the legendary mini-doughnuts to all things fried-on-a-stick, the Calgary Stampede goes all-out with carnie fare, and the crowds eat it up—literally. In fact, if you laid down all 96,000 of the corn dogs consumed annually end-to-end, that line would stretch for 19 kilometres. In terms of sweets, Stampede-goers scarf back two million mini-doughnuts and 50,000 candy apples each year—an estimated 15,000 kilograms of sugar. That’s no bull!
Not-to-miss midway morsels debuting in 2022 include mac-n’-cheese soft serve (yes, you read that right), cow tongue pizza and Korean squid ink hot dogs.
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Millions of dollars are raised for charity
The Calgary Stampede is one of the highest-grossing festivals in all of Canada, but organizers don’t take the money and run. The not-for-profit group that puts on the annual show contributes millions to community charities in addition to the Calgary Stampede Foundation, a registered charity in itself. This foundation invests approximately $3-million annually in youth programs such as The Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, the Calgary Stampede Showband and the Stampede School.
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The pancakes are free
How’s this for little-known Calgary Stampede facts? During the festival, more than 200,000 flapjacks (pancakes) are flipped at community breakfasts across the city. Oh, and did we mention these pancakes are free, and served up with bacon or sausage? Yes, ma’am! Saddling up for a Stampede breakfast has been a tradition ever since 1923. Back then, Jack Morton (also known as “Wildhorse Jack”), moseyed downtown with his chuckwagon and cookstove, and served up hotcakes for a hungry crowd. Not sure exactly where in town you’ll find one of these free feasts? No problem! Simply consult the Stampede breakfast finder and it’ll point you to the nearest location.
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Experience Indigenous culture firsthand at Elbow River Camp
A village of more than two-dozen tipis has been a strong presence at Stampede ever since its inception in 1912. Back then, Canadian laws prohibited Indigenous peoples from practicing their culture beyond the boundaries of a reserve. The exception was the Calgary Stampede, where the Treaty 7 First Nations were encouraged to share their traditions and culture, as they still do today through engaging storytelling and interactive programming. Elbow River Camp remains one of only three original Stampede attractions (alongside the rodeo and parade) that continue to this day.
A new addition to the 10-day festival is the Calgary Stampede Powwow, one of the largest powwows in Canada. Taking place July 12-14 in the Scotiabank Saddledome, the high-energy event celebrating Indigenous culture features competitive drumming, dancing and singing with $175,000 in prize money up for grabs.
After the Stampede, check out these awesome day trips from Calgary on one tank of gas.
The Stampede is a royal affair
The first Stampede Queen was crowned in 1946, and the tradition continues today, with Stampede royalty extending to the naming of two Stampede Princesses and a First Nations Princess. Queen Elizabeth II herself has joined the crowned heads of Stampede four times since 1951, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended during their 2011 inaugural Canadian tour. Donning white hats (Calgary’s version of keys to the city), the royal couple took in the Stampede Parade and a private rodeo performance.
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Stampede Park becomes Alberta’s third largest city
Over the 10 days of Stampede 2017, more than 1.2-million guests galloped through the gates of Stampede Park. In fact, the average daily attendance at Stampede is 121,497, making it (temporarily) Alberta’s third largest city, just edging out Red Deer with its population of 100,418.
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Rodeo contestants compete for big bucks
The Stampede boasts the largest purse in outdoor rodeo with more than $2-million paid out in prizes. That kind of cash lures cowboys and cowgirls from across North America to compete in front of 30,000 fans each afternoon in events ranging from bareback to bull riding to barrel racing. The goal is to advance to Showdown Sunday, when a grand total of $1,018,800 is doled out in what’s known as rodeo’s richest afternoon.
If you’re heading to the Rockies after Stampede, this itinerary of the best things to do in Banff will come in handy.
Animal welfare is a high priority
More than 7,500 animals take part in the Calgary Stampede’s rodeo, exhibitions and educational programs. (Head to the Ag Barns to get up close and personal with these cute critters.) Perhaps one of the most important Calgary Stampede facts is that every last animal is seen daily by the Stampede’s on-site vets, which number as many as 10. Bucking horses receive top-notch medical care, and when they’re not performing (top bucking horses tend to perform their eight-second ride only a dozen times a year), they’re living in a natural herd environment at the Stampede Ranch.
For 2022, a new chuckwagon format is coming to the Rangeland Derby in which 27 racers will compete in heats of three. The reduced number (down from heats of four), allows for greater manoeuverability—and more space between the chuckwagons.
Don’t miss this gorgeous gallery showcasing the wild horses of Alberta.
The Calgary Stampede funds Canada’s unofficial performing arts school
The Young Canadians are a troop of 120 talented teens who hoof it each night in a spectacular performance at the Stampede’s Grandstand Show. (Think Glee meets the Super Bowl Halftime Show.) They’re all members of the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, which is subsidized by the Calgary Stampede Foundation. After passing through a series of rigorous auditions, the young people are trained in dance, voice and performance by the school’s professional faculty.
Now that you know these fascinating Calgary Stampede facts, find out more incredible things to do in Calgary on your next trip.