Early Stampedes

Rodeos or stampedes originated in the Western United States. They were contests in which cowboys competed with one another in different events such as saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, as well as many other events. Rodeos or stampedes were generally associated with life in the west.

The first stampede in Alberta was held in Raymond in 1903. The first major official Canadian stampede was held on September 12, 1912 in Calgary, Alberta. Since then Calgary has been the site of many stampedes, which are well known throughout the world.

A Canadian rider who achieves international fame was Pete Knight. He was saddle bronc riding champion for the four years between 1932 and 1936.

Stampedes were always popular in our district during the early years. There were not too many staged in our immediate area, possibly two or three that the people in our district attended. The big one was the "Queenie Creek" stampede which was held a few miles south of Derwent, on land owned by Homer Campbell, who was a well-known rancher of that district. The first Queenie Creek Stampede was held in 1919. It was organized by the many ranchers of that district. The stampede stock was supplied by Tony Dixon who was also the arena general manager. In 1922 a special attraction to the Queenie Creek stampede was a stunt flying exhibition by "Wop" May, a first world war flying ace. The last big stampede held at Queenie Creek was on July 8, 1925. One thousand dollars in prize money was offered to contestants for many varied events.                                 

  An additional one hundred dollars was offered to any cowboy who could ride either of the "Gold Dust Twins"; they were a pair of black geldings that became famous buckers. They bucked all over the United States and were very seldom ridden. This stampede also featured a special platform attraction as well as a bowery dance at night featuring "Dutch Lyons" and his Hawaiian band. Track races as well as athletic sporting events were also billed at this stampede. Another feature was a horse race for European immigrants who arrived in 1925. The admission to this stampede Was one dollar, with no charge for children. This stampede also advertised free car parking, free tourist camping ground parking, and free drinking water.

he first stampede I remember attending was one staged on the river flat in the general area where Gordon McCuaig now lives(about a mile east of the Elk Point bridge). If I recall correctly, it was held in May. The stampede corrals were located on the river flat and the people observed the action while sitting on a gradual hillside. This stampede attracted riders from many distant areas. The many bucking horses brought in for this stampede proved to be very difficult to ride and many a cowboy prematurely bit the dust. One thing I do recall was the large cowboy hats used in those days. They were called ten gallon hats and they appeared to be twice as large as the ones worn today. Another thing I recall was the many old cars parked on the hill above the stampede grounds, mostly model "T" Fords as well as other early models.

Other stampedes held near Elk Point were the ones held on the sand plains south east of where Cameron Isert lives (about 11km. East of Elk Point on Hwy. 646). They seemed to attract large crowds and they provided their share of action. I remember Roy Scott competing at one of these stampedes. He was riding a saddle bronc and was doing quite well until his horse stumbled and fell. There was a big cloud of dust and for a minute you couldn't see man or horse. A lot of us thought it was the end of Roy. however, when the dust cleared man and horse both got to their feet with no visible harm done to either of them.

I don't recall chuckwagon races held at - the early stampedes, however I do remember chariot races. Two wild horses were harnessed to a two-wheeled cart and the contestants raced around a track. It proved very exciting to watch but was very dangerous for the contestants to perform.

Closer to home we had the Stoney Lake Stampedes. They were always popular and they always drew large crowds. Many people who had previously left our district always came back for these events and you could always have a good visit with people you hadn't seen in a long time. The promoter of many of the early Stoney Lake Stampedes was Steve Demchuk, a well-known resident of that district. I don't recall Steve competing in any events; however, I do recall watching him perform many fancy roping acts. Steve was a popular, well liked, good natured person and he always seemed happy when he promoted a stampede or attended one in some other districts.