We have been quite busy these past few months finding our footing and soaking in every step of our journey so far. Princesses Keily and Courtney shared some of our amazing experiences in previous blog posts, so check those out if you haven’t already!
One of the questions that we get asked quite often is how we got involved in the Royalty Program, or why we chose to try out. While all three of our answers differ, I thought I would share mine as it has some family history to it.
I have visited the Stampede every year for as long as I can remember and throughout the years I’ve spent at Stampede Park, one thing has stayed constant, spending time together as a family.
Our Stampede family tradition has been something we look forward to every year. The 10 days always began with the four of us ( my mom, dad, my sister and I) watching the Stampede Parade and stopping at as many pancake breakfasts as we could hit that morning. The Midway, barns and the Stampede Lotteries Dream Home were always stops we would make throughout the 10 days together, as well as my personal favourites- the GMC Rangeland Derby and the Grandstand Show. (I still get goosebumps hearing Les McIntyre’s voice as he bellows, “There’s the horn and the charge is underway!”.
Myself and my sister Danica showing our Pony “Simba” at the Welsh Pony Exhibit at the Calgary Stampede
There was a slight change to our family Stampede tradition in 2014 when my older sister Danica was crowned the 2014 Stampede Queen. I was in my first year of university during her reign, so I watched her experience proudly from Ontario until summer rolled around and I was back in Calgary.
The Stampede Royalty wasn’t something I had much knowledge about until I witnessed Danica’s journey in the program, and was it ever eye-opening. I admired her ability to so confidently put herself out there, which resulted in so many amazing relationships and experiences. Of course, being the younger sibling, people often asked me if I was going to follow in her footsteps and try out to be Stampede Royalty too.
Danica Heath, 2014 Calgary Stampede Queen
To be honest, I wasn’t fully convinced that it was something I wanted or could do. The insanely busy schedule, public speaking, public appearances- all things that were completely outside of my comfort zone. I watched Danica’s year in awe as she thrived in her role and some of the pressures that came along with it. I also witnessed how it helped develop her as not only a person, but as a member of the community.
That year, the 2014 Royal Trio (alongside Princesses Stephanie Patterson and Shannon Black) created White Jean Wednesday- which happens each Wednesday of Stampede, where leaders of the Calgary Stampede challenge one another to fundraise money for various charities, while wearing their white denim. Since 2014, those white jeans have raised almost $17,000!
Danica shaped her role as a member of the Stampede family in a way that left a unique impact.
2014 Royal Trio on the initial White Jean Wednesday with Past President & Chairman of the Board ,Bob Thompson, Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Directors Teri McKinnon and Mike O’Connor
After Danica’s year came to a close, she became involved in the Queens’ Alumni committee. The committee is comprised of all of the former Calgary Stampede Royalty who work throughout the year to plan and create western activities for children with special needs. This was another eye-opener for me; a group of successful women who have one year of their lives in common and use that to give back to the community year-after-year, I found it inspiring.
The more I thought about it, the more sense it made to me. This program is so much more than a year of your life. It’s setting you up for the rest of your life. It helps you grow and engage and give back to the community that you grew up surrounded and supported by.
So here I am! Six months into my role as one of three Stampede ambassadors and I’m looking forward at what’s to come. My comfort zone has vastly expanded and I couldn’t be more grateful for every opportunity and conversation we have had so far.
2019 Royal Trio (Courtney Dingreville, Myself & Keily Stewart)
Between myself, Keily and Courtney, we all have our different reasons for wanting to be a part of this amazing program and that will only make this year more empowering for us as a trio.
My next Stampede will be a bit different come July, and I am eager to add to my experiences and hopefully help others create those special memories and traditions surrounding The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth!