Stampede Park. (Photo by Chris Bolin/Calgary Stampede)

Attendance at Calgary Stampede July 3-12 dropped to 1,168,509 this year, down 94,919 due to disruptive weather and a slightly down economy. Strong headliners stimulated attendance while a redesigned children’s carnival increased interest with young families.

Gate admission cost about $14 for adults, increasing by about $2 over last year. The price for children also increased about $1 for a cost of $8. 

Paid headliners in the Saddledome included Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean and Stevie Wonder, while Miranda Lambert was forced to reschedule due to a medical issue. Ticket prices for Shelton, who performed July 10, started at about $40. Timing was everything as his new album comes out in September. In addition to the Saddledome concerts, Coke Stage and Nashville North both saw a new headliner every night, with access to both stages included with park admission. Another big success was the TransAlta Grandstand Show – A Canadian Classic – which received several very positive reviews.

Transalta Grandstand Show, A Canadian Classic. (Photo by Chris Bolin/Calgary Stampede)

Nashville North recently underwent an expansion to include a large patio, making it an even more popular location for concerts, and the addition of The Stoli Lounge provided a location that can be booked for parties of 20 people or more.

One new attraction that proved popular for the Stampede was the ENMAX Corral Show – Cirque Eloize – which lasted 40 minutes and was free with park admission. The Corral seats just more than 7,000 people. The circus troupe did a special edition of their show iD, featuring breakdancing, acrobatics, contortionists and juggling.

Midway Recap

This year, North American Midway Entertainment (NAME) brought 58 rides to Calgary Stampede. Kids and families flocked to the Great FUNtier, which was added in 2014. Though NAME didn’t expand the area, “we did a redesign to make it more family-friendly with better traffic flow to accommodate families and their children,” said VP of Client Services Scooter Korek. “We have a formula that truly works and will be utilizing it for many years.”

NAME tends to look at a five-year average to determine trends, which would put them slightly up in ridership. However, if someone were to just look at this year’s numbers, it looks like they had a slight decrease in line with attendance. The games performed equally as well, trending up in the five-year period but slightly down from last year.

The company added a Monster Truck ride for children, which proved popular, but for the teenagers and thrill-seekers NAME introduced a new Tornado ride, “which sends riders spinning and twirling as the ride is lifted up in the air going up and down simultaneously.”

Pay-one-price wristbands cost about $42 on weekdays and $45 on weekends, with coupon deals running at about $1 per coupon, nearly $16 for 22 coupons, or $40 for 55 coupons. Fairgoers could purchase pay-one-price wristbands in advance for $31.

There are big plans for the Great FUNtier.

“It’s a great spot for families to take in the kids’ midway, agriculture exhibits and competitions, and next year the Great FUNtier will lead right into ENMAX Park, the new home to Indian Village and other great programming,” said Jennifer Booth, Public Relations manager at Calgary Stampede. 

The new building that opened last year, The Agrium Western Event Centre, housed several competitions, animal exhibits and programs. It’s not only used during the fair. Throughout the year, several agriculture and equine-focused events have taken place as well as the Journey 2050 program for middle school students to learn about how to sustainably feed the world by the year 2050. The new Youth Campus (which will include the BMO Youth Campus Amphitheatre) and ENMAX Park will only add to the educational and recreational opportunities on the Calgary Stampede campus.

The spaces “will create additional gathering places for the community,” said Booth. “ENMAX Park will be the new home to Indian Village and other programming during Stampede, year-round, it will be a beautiful green space for families to enjoy.”

Advance tickets for the Afternoon Rodeo were priced starting at about $31, including park admission.

Unexpected Challenges

A couple of incidents could have marred this year’s Stampede, including equine injury and a less-than-wholesome incident caught on camera that quickly went viral.

WCB team won the 2015 Calgary Stampede Blacksmith Classic. (Photo by Shaun Robinson/Calgary Stampede)

Four horses needed to be euthanized as a result of this year’s races, up from one in previous years. Two of the four horses were euthanized due to a broken bone caused by contact with another wagon. “Driver error was identified in both these incidents and significant penalties and fines were given to the drivers responsible,” said Booth. The other two horses sustained racing injuries that “are well identified in this particular breed,” including rupturing suspensory ligaments in their legs.

The Stampede is now working to make its animal events a safer space.

“Continuous improvement and safety measures are in place at the Stampede to ensure the safety of all animals on the Park,” Booth noted. “Throughout the past five years, rules changes have been made to both the chuckwagon races as well as events in the rodeo and our fitness-to-compete program continues to evolve.”

In an incident now being referred to by some media outlets, and the person in question herself, as ‘Trampede,’ a woman was spotted having consensual relations with two men during the time of Stampede; however, the activities were not in Stampede Park. The incident occurred July 5, two days into the event, and went viral after someone posted video online shortly thereafter. Calgary Stampede still had more than a week of activities planned, so it was important for the PR team to respond immediately to prevent too much fallout.

“The Calgary Stampede posted a statement on Facebook reiterating the Stampede is about communities celebrating and gathering and we hold ourselves to a set of values that holds us to the positive reputation that the City of Calgary has,” said Booth.

Though the incident continued to receive media coverage, especially after the woman involved posted a more than four-minute response video, attendance to the Stampede and its concerts and other activities remained strong throughout the run.

Interviewed for this story: Jennifer Booth, (403) 261-0101; and Amy Girton and Scooter Korek, (765) 509-1169