Since 1980, the Stampede Talent Search has been providing a platform for young, amateur performers to demonstrate their talent. Thirty-five years of Talent Search Champions have gone on to become Juno Award winning artists, International hit-makers, and Canadian and World Champions. And it’s all because of a man named Don Welden.

Welden was the Stampede Entertainment Manager, who was convinced that free entertainment would be an important way to enhance the guest experience on Stampede Park. After a trip to Memphis, TN, to watch a talent competition at the Tennessee State Fair, Welden was convinced that a competition format would be valuable to young performers and exciting for the audience to watch.

Welden set about inviting amateur singers, dancers and musicians to compete in a talent competition held during Stampede time. As the competition grew in popularity, he then established a volunteer committee. The competition grew in scope—sponsors soon aligned themselves with the event, and the size of the committee grew to administer a now marquee, Canada-wide event.

In 2014, Kaleigh-Jo Kirk was the recipient of the Don Welden Award for most Promising Performer of the competition. (Photo credit: Benjamin Laird Arts & Photo)
Kaleigh-Jo Kirk was the 2014 recipient of the Don Welden Award for Most Promising Performer. (Photo credit: Benjamin Laird Arts & Photo)

In 1988, the Stampede Talent Search committee created an award to honor Welden’s legacy. The Don Welden Most Promising Performer Award is given out annually to a contestant, selected by the committee, who demonstrates Welden’s values of integrity, commitment to their craft and congeniality.

The Stampede Talent Search is a must-see event during Stampede time. Free with park admission, talented performers ages six to 21 from across Canada entertain audiences nightly on a professional stage with a live band. This year, the top senior performer will earn $10,000 cash in addition to a valuable development package from the Calgary Stampede and a custom, one-of-a-kind Stampede Talent Search belt buckle.

If you’d like to see tomorrow’s next big star shine on our stage, preliminary performances start Friday, July 3 to Tuesday, July 7. Semi-finals are Thursday, July 9 and Friday, July 10, and the finals are held on Saturday, July 11. All performance begin at 6 p.m. and are held in the Boyce Theatre on Stampede Park.