Half Mile of Hell
Photo Album

In 1912 the great Stampede was born from the vision of Guy Weadick. Guy was a famous working cowboy, trick roper, vaudeville and travelling rodeos entertainer featured in the traveling wild-west shows that were popular world-wide in the early 1900s. He was a man with a dream of celebrating the romance of the old west.
Picture of Guy Weadick

The Stampede we enjoy today has evolved from Guy's vision. He was successful because he understood that as much as things change, we need to believe in the way things were.

The seed that was to grow into the world-renowned Calgary Exhibition & Stampede was planted at the confluence of the Bow and Elbow Rivers when an Agricultural Society was formed on August 16, 1884.

Weadick saw Calgary as the crossroads of the Canadian west. He envisioned it as the birthplace of the biggest frontier days show the world has ever seen.Weadick was a dreamer, but a dreamer with a difference. As well as being a showman and a performer, Weadick was a promoter and organizer extraordinaire, and he had the substance to make his dream a reality. The only thing this cowboy lacked was money.
He haunted the lobby and the bar of the Alberta Hotel and told his story to anyone who would listen. Weadick needed a $100,000 bankroll.
A frustrated and dispirited Weadick finally met with four prominent Calgarians: George Lane, A.E. Cross, A.J. McLean and Patrick Burns. These men, who later became the Big Four, agreed to back the project to a total of $100,000 and the deal was cemented with a handshake. The first Stampede, held in September of 1912, was everything Weadick promised - a resounding public success. Thus the stage was set and the script written for The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

1884 Calgary was incorporated as a town and was home to 500 people. The Calgary and District Agricultural Society was formed.
1886 The first fair was produced by the Calgary and District Agricultural Society on October 19 and 20.
1888 The Agricultural Society purchased 94 acres of land from the Dominion of Canada. This land on the Elbow River has continued to be the site of Calgary’s exhibition since then.
1889 The Exhibition lands were christened Victoria Park.
1908 Calgary was the host for the Dominion Exhibition. Government funds supported the construction of an exhibit buildings, grandstand and several barns.
1911 Parimutuel betting was introduced at the horse races. A new livestock and horse show arena was built.
1912 In September, Guy Weadick produced the first Stampede.
1919 Guy Weadick returned to Calgary to produce the second Stampede, called the Victory Stampede in honour of the end of World War I.
1923 The “Calgary Stampede” merged with the “Calgary Industrial Exhibition” to form the “Calgary Exhibition & Stampede.”
1950 The Stampede Corral was completed.
1952 Guy Weadick, special honoured guest, presented championship trophies to the victorious cowboys.
1953 Guy Weadick's death.
1954 Fifteen acres were added to the Stampede Park lease.
1959 The Big Four Building officially opened.
1967 Stampede expanded from its traditional 6 days to 9 days.
1968 Stampede expanded to 10 full days.
1968 City Council approved Stampede Park expansion north to 14 Avenue S.E. Community studies and consultation began.
1974 A new larger grandstand with a 5/8th mile racetrack and infield was built. The Indian Village was relocated.
1981 The original Roundup Centre was completed.
1982 The Stampede introduced the Half Million Dollar Rodeo.
1983 The Saddledome was officially opened.
1984 City Council adopted the Victoria Park East Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP).
1990 Calgary Exhibition & Stampede released its "Horizon 2000" expansion plan.
1994 City Council adopted amendments to the Victoria Park East ARP, incorporating some of the Horizon 2000 recommendations.
1996 The Expo 2005 bid proposed expansion of Stampede Park to 9 Avenue S.E.
1998 The Victoria Park Redevelopment Committee (VPRC) was established with the mandate to provide constructive feedback regarding Victoria Park redevelopment.
2000 The Roundup Centre addition was completed.
2001 Stampede Park invested $7 million in a state-of-the-art Grandstand Stage, and more than $1 million in Park and Elbow River bank beautification.
2004 The prize money was raised to the Million Dollar Rodeo.
2005 In October, the Stampede announced there would be further changes to the rodeo format and an increase in prize money.
2006 Property acquisitions were completed (Stampede Park was then 193 acres). Calgary City Council approved land use for Stampede Park.
2006 The Stampede announced plans to transform Stampede Park from a parking lot into a park over the course of several years.
2006 Construction of a new and relocated Stampede Casino began in September.
2007 Work began in July on the expansion of the Roundup Centre, fully funded through Government of Alberta grants.
2008 The Public Art program was launched in January with a mandate to create 10 heroic-sized bronze sculptures for Stampede Park.
2008 In March, the new Stampede Casino was sold to an outside partner.
2009 In June, the Roundup Centre was renamed BMO Centre.
2012 Centennial Stampede. In his wildest dreams, Stampede visionary Guy Weadick could not have foreseen the citywide, countrywide and worldwide celebrations marking the Centennial.

And then there are the Chuckwagon races!! You've never seen anything like it! Sixteen spirited horses aligned and anxious. Four determined drivers and their teams of primed outriders.
The Klaxon sounds, and they're off, thundering around the half mile track affectionately known as the "half a mile of hell "in hopes of winning a share of the purse and a championship title!
Chuckwagon racing is an amazing contest of nerves and horsepower - a challenge that ignites thousands of fans. And it's only the start of a sensational Stampede evening. Your ticket to the Chuckwagon Races is also your ticket to the Grandstand Stage Spectacular”.

As one of Canada's legendary country and western singers, Ian Tyson's lyrics reach the heart of the West.

Half a Mile of Hell allows listeners to feel the exhilaration of the chuckwagon races and the thrill of the rodeo.

Listen to Half Mile of Hell

Picture of Guy Weadick

The evening Grandstand Show provides world-class entertainment. As the sun goes down, the stars come out, and for 90 minutes the gigantic outdoor stage features the Young Canadians and hundreds of singers, dancers and musicians in a lavishly produced and choreographed non-stop musical variety spectacular.

The parade opens up the Stampede, and is always the first Friday morning of the Stampede. The parade is always a highlight of the Stampede, even for people who've lived in Calgary all their lives. About the only people who skip it are those hung-over from the night before's festivities. The parade is televised locally and across Canada (9:30 - 11:30 am). It attracts about 250,000 people, plus another million on TV). The parade begins west on 6th Avenue at MacLeod Trail, and continues to 10th Street SW, and then east again on 9th Avenue. The parade begins at 9 am, and runs till about noon (depending on where on the route you are).

Here are some tips from experienced parade watchers:

  • Park outside the downtown core or catch the C-Train into downtown. The traffic this day is BUSY.
  • Get to your chosen spot early. The police block downtown access for cars by then. The good spots on 6th Ave fill up by 7 am, and on 9th Ave by 8 am. For those taking pictures or videos, head to 9th, so the morning sun is behind you (good tip the TV networks).
  • Bleacher seating gives everyone a view (though you have to pay for it), and your feet don't get as tired in cowboy boots.
  • If you've got children, bring your own refreshments and snacks. If you forget, there are lots of corner street vendors who will help repair your vocal cords. Image of Broomstick Cowboy
  • Sit your kids street-side on the curb. That way they'll have an unobstructed view. Watch your kids during the parade, so they don't run up to animals, floats, or mascots.
  • Wear your cowboy hat for protection from the hot sun.
  • After the parade head to the Stephen Avenue Mall, and people watch (the suits & ties have disappeared).
  • If you've got kids, head down to the Stampede grounds. Or go to Heritage Park...its not as busy, its harder to lose the kids, and its educational.
  • Do your morning shopping or banking outside the downtown core! Most downtown establishments don't open 'til noon because everybody's at the parade.
  • Videotape the parade on TV. You can relive some of the better floats or bands, and compare notes with friends. The local stations will also replay the parade highlights that evening and on the weekend.

The Calgary Stampede has been billed as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth due to its renowned rodeo that includes events like saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, barrel racing, tie-down roping and steer wresting.
The Rodeo is a hit with big audiences and the world's top cowboys/cowgirls. It is exciting to watch the world's best competitors and world-champion rodeo stock battle for glory and the lure of over one million dollars in prize money. The Calgary Stampede is the only regular season rodeo to offer one million dollars. The world's top professional cowboys and rodeo stock come together for unparalleled excitement!

Stampede Park is a versatile and multi-purpose facility that hosts many events in addition to the Calgary Stampede. The park includes the Pengrowth Saddledome, the Roundup Centre, the Stampede Coral, the Stampede Casino, Stampede Racing Park, the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, the Agricore Grain Academy, several souvenir shops and more.
Image of TeePeeYou can enjoy the midway rides and the free entertainment: pig races, a split-rail maze, a petting farm and the Indian Village. The stampede is a great place for kids to meet farm animals, watch sheep shearing and witness a World Champion Blacksmith's Competition. A self-guided tour book is available at Stampede Headquarters (1410 Olympic Way SE).

Click on the images for a larger view.