July 15, 2024

Advancing Business Excellence

Pioneering Corporate Success

Ten days of tourism, business, and politics kicks off with the start of the Calgary Stampede

While the Outlaw might give riders at this year’s Calgary Stampede some serious adrenaline rushes, off the midway there will be a lot of action going on that visitors might just miss.

From employment—some 3,976 alone hired by the Stampede for 10-day from over 21,000 applicants, to the thousands hired for other events around the city—to hotel rooms booked and business deals made, the start of Stampede is also the start of serious business.

Joel Cowley, CEO of the Calgary Stampede, cited the a Conference Board of Canada study that found the festival provided the economy of Calgary a $282 million positive boost, and a $530 million boost year-round.

“That’s largely driven by the visitor economy, those who come from out of town whether they’re coming here for a convention to advance throughout the year, they’re coming to the Calgary Stampede. They’re bringing money to Calgary that otherwise would not be in Calgary,” he said.

This year’s Stampede, although no firm numbers were available, is like to continue to see an approximate 70-30 split in terms of locals and visitors from out of town.

Approximately 10 per cent in years past has been from Alberta, another 10 per cent from across Canada, and the final 10 per cent have been international visitors.

Alisha Reynolds, CEO of Tourism Calgary said that so far estimates have about 138,000 visitors staying at hotels and motels for the Stampede.

“Visitation is looking strong and hotel performance is looking very strong as well. That’s always a key driver for us to know how we’re doing from a visitation perspective,” she said.

“There’s a lot to see and do here for those in Calgary. We look forward to seeing you come out, and for those who are hopping on a plane or a train or a bus or horseback, we look forward to welcoming you here with the friendliest hospitality in the world.”

She said, like Cowley, that the number of visitors coming to Calgary was vital to the local economy—as visitors tend to spend more and stay longer at events and attractions.

That interest to spend, said Cowley, has resulted in high pre-ticket sales for both the rodeo and the grandstand show.

“Ticket sales for both the rodeo afternoon rodeo and the evening show are running ahead of 2023 year to date. They’re actually running ahead of 2019 year to date,” he said.

Interest in attending events has also extended to competitors, especially for the expanded number of Indigenous competitions that will be occurring this year.

Cowley said that they have more than 450 entrants from across North America, including from New Mexico, to compete in this year’s Stampede Powwow.

Calgary Tourism CEO Alisha Alisha Reynolds, left, Calgary Stampede CEO Joel Cowley, and Calgary Economic Development CEO Brad Parry announce the start of the Calgary Stampede at the BMO Centre in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

The handshake economy

Calgary Economic Development CEO Brad Parry described the Stampede as one of the most important events for economic development that occurs each year in Calgary.

“This is a showcase for us. We actually have three different groups coming in over the next 10 days from different industries. We have some of the biggest studio production companies coming in to spend three days four days in seeing what’s happening. We have agricultural companies coming in from around the world that we’re hosting here,” Parry said.

“We have companies coming from site selectors, and site selectors are people who look for large scale opportunities to build and invest in the community.”

He said that it’s an opportunity to showcase not just the business opportunities in Calgary to those groups, but the people themselves that would be working with those firms and investors post-deal.

“This is a handshake deal city, and coming to town during Stampede just proves it out for us over and over again. A lot of our prospects and our clients are coming in for us to showcase,” Parry said.

Earlier on July 4, Calgarians celebrated another first, with the annual First Flip which draws every day Calgarians, to CEOs, politicians, and decision makers alike to Stephen Avenue.

Calgary Chamber of Commerce CEO Deborah Yedlin said that the large crowd that at times circled around Stephen Avenue through Centre Street to the LRT station at the Telus Convention Centre was a good sign for the city.

“It’s vibrant, and I think there’s also a sense of relief that we’ve come through the water restrictions and we can enjoy Stampede the way we want to. That’s part of it, but people want to come together. I think this is one of this is the busiest Stampedes that I remember in 30 years, so I think my feet are gonna hurt by the end of it,” Yedlin said.

She said one of the great things about doing business during Stampede was that everyone comes to Stampede and looks the same.

“You strike up conversation because we’re all wearing the same clothes. The barriers, the perceived barriers go, and everybody strikes up conversations,” Yedlin said.

“You never know where it’s going to go. You never know where those conversations will lead. You don’t know what about the connections that will be made. It’s an equalizer, and it really sets the stage for some really interesting opportunities.”

Mark Garner, Executive Director of the Calgary Downtown Association, which co-hosts First Flip, said that it was likely the 2024 event would surpass the records set in previous years.

“The enthusiasm we’re seeing today, it really is the start of Stampede. First Flip is such a great first event, and then leading the parade tomorrow and then just all the festivities starting. But for us, when we see the turnout that we’re seeing today, I think everybody’s back and we’re going to have a great Stampede and it means great things for downtown,” he said.

“It’s not just about the Calgary Downtown Association. It’s all the partners that are part of it. It’s not only just people that work downtown that have come out for pancakes this morning, but there’s people that have come in. I’ve seen people leaving the hotels to come over and have pancakes this morning.”

Pancakes are flipped during First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Everyone gets a flip, regardless of political stripes

That equalization also applies to politics, where at First Flip you’re as likely to see the two leaders of the province’s major political parties join with city councillors of their own political stripes to make pancakes for hungry Calgarians.

Among the attendees at this year’s First Flip were Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, along with a number of the provincial ministers, and the newly-chosen leader of the Alberta NDP, Naheed Nenshi, alongside members of the official opposition.

Calgary-Foothills MLA Court Ellingson, who himself was no stranger to First Flips during his tenure as a vice president with Calgary Economic Development, said that the Stampede is the time when everyone comes together.

“It’s about looking forward. It’s about remembering who we are. And we set aside our differences in politics. And we are all here to just absorbing the incredible energy that is here today, and just feel good and hopeful for the future,” Ellingson said.

“This is so much larger than previous years. Even I am wondering where all the people from. I swear there are twice as many people here as there were last year.”

In attendance from Calgary City Council were Mayor Jyoti Gondek, and Couns. Dan McLean, Courtney Walcott, Terry Wong, Sonya Sharp, and Andre Chabot.

Being part of the energy, which itself was officially retired as the city’s slogan in favour of Blue Sky City for the start of the Stampede, was Minister of Employment, Workforce Development, and Official Languages Randy Boissonnault.

It was to some cheering from the crowd when he shouted out “Calgary you are the fifth most livable city in the world, let me hear you” during the morning’s speeches.

“I want to say I know that you’ve had a hard couple of weeks, but if there’s anything that I know being an Albertan, and your minister in the federal government for Alberta, is that when the show must go on, and when the world is planning to come to Alberta and Calgary: this city delivers. Give yourselves a round of applause, Mayor Gondek and everybody for putting on the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” he said.

As for making that show happen, Mayor Gondek said that it was really due to the hard work done by everyday Calgarians to conserve water and from City of Calgary and private industry that helped to put things back in the pipeline for the Stampede.

“The water teams have been amazing. The construction crews are incredible. The number of people that banded together from the private sector and the public sector – this is who we are. This is what we do. When we’re faced with a crisis. We come together, we band together,” she said.

“This spirit of collaboration and the spirit of we can do this lives large in our city, and this was no exception. We’re going into the busiest tourist season. For us to be able to do that repair work and get water flowing again was incredible, and everyone is pretty happy about it.”

Photos from First Flip 2024

Mayor Jyoti Gondek sends a pancake flying next to Calgary Economic Development CEO Brad Parry at First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
The business community gets into making pancakes with Deborah Yedlin, CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, centre, and Chamber board chair Jason Hatcher at First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Calgary-Foothills MLA Court Ellington does some flipping during First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
CMLC CEO Kate Thompson (centre flipper) and Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong do some flipping during First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Anila Umar, CEO of the Centre for Newcomers, flips some pancakes during First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Councillors of all political stripes come together to meet with members of the public at First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Live music at First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Lineups stretch around the block for First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Melissa Boerger, co-founder of Taste of the City, holds up a sign saying she’d rather be eating at First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. Taste of the City was one of the many businesses to attend First Flip to make connections. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Hundreds sit down for a free pancake breakfast during First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
The Chinook Country Line Dancers perform along Centre Street at First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
A visitor to Calgary receives a white hat from Tourism Calgary at First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Juggling both spots in line and as performance at First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Stilt walkers and big hats at First Flip on Stephen Avenue in Calgary on Thursday, July 4, 2024. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

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