Art, Culture, & Heritage at the Calgary Stampede

Born and raised in Calgary, I fall in one of two camps- the one that loves stampede and truly thinks there is something for everyone. (The other camp tends to hate stampede, and leaves the city ).

Once you’re on the grounds you have access to concerts, shopping, cultural performances, dogs doing tricks, BMX bikes, high diving stunts, children’s performers, hypnotists, animals, agriculture, tanks, beer gardens, show bands, the Indian Village, fireworks… not to mention the midway, full of delicious treats and awesome rides (although this year the haunted mansion seemed even more underwhelming than usual, and not in a campy fun way… just bad. especially for 5 ride tokens!) This year also featured Axe throwing, paint ball, and a locked room. Really, what’s not to love?!  Something that might be overlooked, besides the Indian Village (which everyone seemed to love in its new, bigger location), is the art, culture, and heritage on the grounds.

First up in the round up centre is the Western Oasis (that’s where the wine garden and those moving statues were…;p ). The art, of all kinds, on display there always blows my mind. It’s truly amazing to see so much local art at the top of it’s game in so many mediums, from paintings to sketches to jewellery to cakes to quilts. While I loved many of the paintings and photographs, I was particularly blown away by some of the quilt entries this year.

Me: Is that… the Mona Lisa… on a quilt? *Gets closer* Yes, yes it is. That’s amazing!
Partner: Haha. Now only if there was a Van Gogh! *Looks left*…

Amazing.   And so many of the other entries were too.

But beyond the Western Oasis, where you might have expected to find art, there is art and culture in other places around the grounds too. You may have noticed some of the larger horse statues, which were very popular for photos. But there are actually many statues, murals, and installations, which can be found with the Art Walk pamphlet. The pamphlet was definitely available during stampede, but since these art pieces are permanent, you should be able to do the walk at any time of year.

The pamphlet contains a map with all of the locations of the pieces, as well as small photos, titles and artist info, and a brief description, as well as points out a couple of related pieces nearby in downtown. I didn’t do the whole walk during stampede, but am looking forward to it!

There are also several heritage buildings and locations throughout stampede park. Some of these are more temporary structures or displays just for stampede, but some are permanently on the grounds, such as those in Weadickville, which is meant to be a reconstruction of a historic streetscape. Three of the buildings though, are original, including the NWMP building, the Fazackerly’s fudge building- which used to be a post office and still has the original mail slot and stove- and the Quirk historical cabin, which the historic committee opens each year during stampede with interpretation surrounding a particular theme. The Quirk cabin, built in 1885 and used by John and Kate Quirk on their ranch, was moved to the park in the 1950’s. I loved learning a bit about the Quirk’s and their life ranching, and how John took part in the largest ranching round up in history- 100 men, 500 horses, 15 wagons, 60,000 cattle, 10,000 square miles on the open range. Amazing. This year’s interpretive theme was also fascinating, focusing on women in ranching and the stampede, in order to help celebrate the centennial of women’s right to vote in Alberta. I also love the Hoosier cabinet in the cabin.

Finally, the Firefighter’s Museum of Calgary also had their pop-up museum at the Stampede! I love this idea. It’s such a great outreach idea, and to keep people coming into your museum and engaging with your collection when the museum itself isn’t actually open. There was lots of information from a variety of time periods, interactive elements like “whodunnit?”, and, of course, fire trucks! The place was full when I went in (although it is quite small, but still..), and I saw lots of people reading the external signage and looking at the fire trucks. This isn’t the only place I’ve seen the pop-up, so I’m sure there will be other chances to see it too.

As an aside, that reminds me that the Calgary Public Library has just opened Engine 23 at the Central Library, which seems like a fantastic idea! The library and the fire department have installed and retrofitted a retired fire engine and made it a great interactive area within the library. From what I’ve seen so far, it looks really cool!  (Except maybe for the constantly flashing lights… leaving the stampede the other night I walked by quite late, when the library was definitely not open, and all the lights were flashing. Perhaps a bit wasteful, and also maybe a tad unnerving for the nearby Macleod drivers? Or maybe that’s on purpose…?) http://calgarylibrary.ca/engine-23/

Any thoughts on any art, culture, or heritage at the Stampede? The Firefighter’s museum pop up? Or even just the stampede in general? Let me know!

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