Although the travel dates have not yet been set, one thing is certain: the 2019 Calgary Stampede Royalty will travel to cities around the world during their year-long commitment as ambassadors of the Calgary Stampede.

Representing the Stampede outside of Calgary has always been a part of the Royalty’s duties; in fact, it was the reason the Royal Trio contest was created in the first place. In 1945, Gene Autry’s World Championship Rodeo (WCR) invited the Stampede to send its queen to New York and Boston to help promote the WCR and, in turn, promote the Stampede to an international audience.  Stampede President Jack Dillan promptly created the position, crowning Patsy Rodgers the first Stampede Queen in 1946.[1]

Patsy Rodgers, the first Calgary Stampede Queen, 1946.

Rodgers had strong ranching credentials and was an accomplished rider. She had even won numerous ribbons in the Calgary Spring Horse Show.[2] After completing her Stampede time duties like riding in the parade and visiting local veteran’s hospitals, Rodgers flew to Texas—significant in itself because air travel was still an uncommon way to travel. She trained there, and then went on to New York for Autry’s rodeo. Each night for four weeks, and twice on days with matinees, Rodgers joined other rodeo queens to ride in the Grand Entry, where Rodgers waved the Red Ensign. During each intermission, the queens demonstrated a cattle drive, herding 16 Texas longhorns around the infield. They spent the rest of the show in the press box, promoting their rodeos to local reporters.  Rodgers was a media darling, so popular that she even received offers from Hollywood, but she turned them down to return home to Calgary.[3]

Rodgers’ success sparked the annual Royal Trio competition, which was run for my years by the Associated Canadian Travellers. Spreading western hospitality internationally remained a central part of the Royalty’s job as Stampede ambassadors. From 1953-1956, the Royal Trio went to Las Vegas and Hollywood to promote the Stampede. Quebec City for Winter Carnival, Montreal for Expo ‘67!, Grey Cup and National Finals Rodeo are just a few of the other exciting events that the Royalty have represented the Stampede at.

1973 Stampede Queen Suzanne Randle and Princesses Bettie Knight and Joan Horne with Bonhomme during the Quebec Winter Carnival.

Over the years, the job of Stampede Royalty has become a year-round commitment, with trips farther and farther afield. The Royalty have often travelled to Germany to showcase Canada and the Stampede at ITB Berlin, the world’s largest travel conference.  In 2016, Indian Princess Vanessa Stiffarm represented the Stampede in Australia. She recalled that, “Australians were fascinated about the history of First Nations people at the Calgary Stampede. For example, most did not know that the Calgary Stampede was the only place we could practice our traditions in 1912, the first Stampede.” [4]

2016 Indian Princess Vanessa Stiffarm performed a jingle dance at the iconic Sydney Opera House.

While we won’t find out until the next year where the 2019 Royalty will travel, we can be sure that they will spend their year meeting people throughout the world, representing the Stampede, the city, and spreading western hospitality wherever they go.

 

[1] Jennifer Hamblin, Calgary’s Stampede Queens (Calgary: Rocky Mountain Books, 2014), 13-14.

[2] Ibid., 15.

[3] Ibid., 21-28.

[4] Vanessa Stiffarm, “Calgary Stampede Indian Princess Spreads Western Hospitality in Australia,” Calgary Stampede Blog https://www.calgarystampede.com/blog/2016/03/01/calgary-stampede-indian-princess-spreads-western-hospitality-in-australia/