The stampede has always been and continues to be about the community. In March 1912, Guy Weadick arrived in Calgary to pitch a 6-day spectacle titled the “Frontier Day Celebration and Championship.” Weadick, a successful vaudeville performer who had travelled throughout North America and Europe as a trick roper, envisioned a world-class rodeo competition that would celebrate the romance and culture of the “disappearing” Old West. He received support for the event he called the “Stampede” from four prosperous southern Alberta ranchers: A.E. Cross, George Lane, Pat Burns and A.J. McLean, collectively known as the Big Four. First held in September of 1912, the Stampede featured roping and bronc events with competitors from throughout the North American West. Women participated in the saddlebronc and trick riding competitions. Members of the Treaty 7 Nations participated in the events as well. The title of world champion bareback bronc rider went to Tom Three Persons of the Kainai (Blood) Nation who was the first person to stay on Cyclone, the famous horse unbeaten by 129 other riders before Three Persons rode him to a standstill. Despite the rainy weather, the first Stampede drew large crowds and was a success.
Due to the onset of an economic depression followed by the outbreak of the First World War, Weadick’s hopes of making the Stampede an annual event were dashed. But in 1919, the Big Four and Ernie L. Richardson, the Secretary of the Calgary Exhibition, called him back to the city to hold a Victory Stampede that would celebrate peace and the end of the First World War. Once again, the Stampede was a successful rodeo competition and western event.
In 1923, the Stampede joined with the Exhibition holding one event – the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede – in July. This was also the first year of the pancake breakfast, started by Jack Morton offering breakfast to visitors and locals alike from the back of his chuckwagon parked downtown. Within a few years, attendance broke 200,000 and the spectacle continued to grow into the Stampede we enjoy today. It remains a celebration of the Old West out of which Calgary grew and showcases the modern, multicultural and cosmopolitan city it has become. Like the Stampede, Calgary’s past and present are firmly rooted in the traditions of western heritage and values.