Calgary (Rural Roots Canada) – The roots of the Calgary Stampede are planted firmly in agriculture.

The Stampede’s Historical Specialist Christine Leppard says agriculture played a role in the formation of the Calgary Exhibition, which pre-dates the Stampede.

“It is absolutely fair to say that there would be no Stampede today without the Exhibition that had predated Guy Weadick by almost 30 years at that point,” Leppard said.

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She says in 1886, a group of volunteers, and that’s an important point because volunteers have always been at the core of this organization.

“A group of volunteers decided that they wanted Calgary to be the agricultural outpost for Alberta, and they went about that goal by staging an exhibition here on this site that we still hold the Stampede on today.”

Leppard says the first volunteers were farmers.

“Their goal was to learn from each other.”

Farming and ranching were new at that point in Alberta, so they needed to learn how they were going to actually grow things in this climate and find ways to keep their herds healthy.  So they created the exhibition as a place to come together.

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She says the Stampede’s ties to agriculture are fundamental.

“It was the ag community who built the first grandstands and the first barns.”

Leppard says a lot of institutional knowledge about how to put on festivals and how to put on events was built up by these volunteers.

“That ag component has been absolutely fundamental and remains so in a province where agriculture is still are one of our most important industries.”