Stampede president enjoys normalized’ celebration
Foothills: Bob Thompson to stay at the helm until March
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 06:00 am
The president of the Calgary Stampede can finally sit back and put his boots up for a while.
Bob Thompson completed his final Stampede as president July 13 and hopefully he had his cowboy hat and sun block on while he was visiting venues from concerts to bull riding.
“I cannot recall a Calgary Stampede getting 10 days of sunshine like we just had,” Thompson said with a chuckle.
The only thing with a higher reading than the temperatures was the attendance. Approximately 1.26-million people went through the Stampede turnstiles this year. This year’s attendance was second only to the centennial year of 2012 at 1.4 million.
Thompson, who lives just west of Okotoks, also didn’t lose any sleep over flooding, which ransacked the Stampede grounds in 2013.
“Since Stampede ended last year we invested about $50-million in repair and flood mitigation work,” Thompson said. “I know we were substantially more capable to handle any type of flooding. I think it is safe to say our flood mitigation efforts will result in us never having to suffer to the degree we did last year in the event of another flood.
The flood mitigation was paid for by insurance or the Stampede’s coffers, it did not come from taxpayers’ wallets.
The Stampede was flooded with people in 2014 who took in the new look of the park. The $60 million Agrium Western Event Centre, opened just before Stampede Week.
“It made the programming and presentation of agricultural events so much better than we’ve had it before,” Thompson said “The agricentre is a comfortable facility to watch a range events… Nothing pleases me more than to see urban children see cattle for the first time and having an understanding of where their food is coming from.”
The agricentre will be used year-round. Having Stampede facilities used for agricultural events all year has long been a goal for Stampede directors, Thompson said.
However, don’t get the wrong idea - Thompson loves watching the world-class rodeo and the best chuckwagon drivers in the world competing in the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
“That’s the cream on the dessert, standing on the stage handing out $100,000 cheques to someone just coming off the infield,” Thompson said.
He presented cheques to the ladies barrel racer champion Kasey Bass and Strathmore’s Scott Schiffner.
Thompson said other highlights included presenting the Pioneers of Rodeo awards former chuckwagon driver turned CBC analyst Tom Glass of High River and Claresholm’s David Poulsen, a rodeo announcer. Duane Bruce, a saddle bronc rider, also received the award.
It became crystal clear the 2014 Stampede was an overwhelming success when he was at Nicole Kidman’s better half’s concert.
“I was standing at the Keith Urban concert and it dawned on me that the Saddledome was packed to the rafters, the grandstand was packed to the rafters, Cowboys was packed to the rafters, the infield was packed and the midway was packed,” Thompson said. “I was proud of the celebration going on for the whole 10 days.”
It was a return of normalcy after such a nerve-wracking, but heartwarming 2013 Calgary Stampede.
“Our job this year was to put together and enjoy what I called ‘a normalized Stampede’ without all the drama with the flood,” Thompson said. “To combine that with the 10 days of sunshine, it’s just a good hot, sweaty Calgary Stampede.”
The sweat equity isn’t done yet for Thompson.
Although he is done as president for the actual 10-days of celebration, he hasn’t pulled the pin quite yet.
He doesn’t give up the sheriff’s badge until March.
“Our expansion is about to get underway,” Thompson said. “While less glamorous from a public eye standpoint, there is a lot on the plate to keep me going.”
Thompson will remain on the board of directors after March as past president.