In 1924 Calgarians took to the streets by the thousands to take part in the first annual Stampede street dance. Hosted by the Palliser Hotel on the final day of the Stampede, the Cowboy and Old Timers’ Ball spilled out onto 9th Avenue with crowds of about 5,000 people decked out in their finest and most colourful cowboy attire. The newspaper reported happy old timers and members of the “younger set” waltzing and two-stepping across the Palliser’s ballroom, followed by the bawling of a square dance caller to “balance on the corners and promenade all.” Roper Eddie Bowlen summed up the merriment, saying “she was a big evening – fine stuff after a tea party with a flock of calves.”
The street dance expanded every year, and by the end of the 1920s it took an entire city block to accommodate the 15,000 people who attended. Through the century, dancing continued to be an expression of the buzz that permeated the city every year during Stampede. The Downtown Attractions Committee still has square dancers in Rope Square today, offering a fun way for Calgarians and visitors to celebrate the spirit of the Stampede together.
– Aimee Benoit, Archivist