Destinations

Meeting Planners Experience Calgary’s Stampede Celebration Firsthand

"It was so electric."

Live performers dazzle at Calgary’s “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” known as the Stampede.

During Calgary’s annual 10-day Stampede — “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” — hundreds of thousands of people fill the city’s streets wearing white cowboy hats, boots, and head-to-toe denim. The two-week celebration is a time to honor Calgary’s Western heritage and it’s packed with parades, rodeos, live performances, and good ‘ol chuckwagon races.

It was so electric,” said Ricky Hopkins, vice president of global accounts at ConferenceDirect. Hopkins was one of several meeting professionals who attended a FAM trip hosted by Meetings + Conventions Calgary, either July 6-9 or 13-16. “Everybody was so excited and had their cowboy attire on at work. It was exciting. You could feel it in the air.”

During their three-day FAM trip, the meeting professionals explored all that Calgary has to offer, with the added excitement of Stampede. “It was amazing,” Heather Dow, association manager at Events & Management Plus Inc., said. “The city was transformed and every business was showcasing their best Stampede outfit for the locals and visitors. From the complimentary pancakes, to the white hats, and then the chuckwagon, there was always something to see, feel, or eat.”

The entire Calgary community comes together for the annual festivities. “The whole city jumps on board and it’s really a special time to experience Calgary,” explained Carolyn Watson, manager of marketing and communications for Meetings + Conventions Calgary. “Of course, those who only see us during Stampede assume we wear white hats, denim, and plaid year-round, which is not the case. We are an urban, hip, vibrant city 355 days out of the year, then something magical happens during these 10 days.”

To get FAM attendees in the spirit, one of the first stops on the trip was for some Western attire. “One of my favorite site visits was when we first got there, the CVB took us shopping for Western gear,” Hopkins said. “It was just a blast. I finally got a good pair of boots.”

From there, FAM attendees visited several hotels, sites, and venues throughout Calgary, including the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre, Stampede Park, , Hotel le Germain, and Hotel Arts. “I was very surprised to visit Hotel le Germain, Hotel Arts, and the Workshop Restaurant,” Dow said. “I hadn’t ever considered those venues before. They were hidden jewels and I am so glad that they were part of the tour.” Hotel Arts, a boutique hotel in downtown Calgary, made a big impact on FAM attendees. “Very, very cool,” Hopkins said. “I loved how they had funky artwork on the walls in the lobby space and there was a DJ playing at the pool in the middle of the day.”

Also on the trip was a visit to Winsport Canada, home of the iconic Canada Olympic Park, where meeting professionals got to try out some of the equipment. “I look over and I see Olympic athletes training,” Hopkins said. “It was pretty intense. To actually go down on a bobsled, that was a high point.”

Above all else, everyone said the people of Calgary made their trip worth it. “I was blown away by how completely invested each and every site was to the FAM,” Dow said. “The planning, execution, and décor were incredible which really highlighted what they can do for a conference. They truly cared about our time with them and it felt like family.”

Dow is currently already planning her next meeting in Calgary. “What really sold me was how polished Calgary and the partners were,” she said. “From the organization of the FAM in the registration stages, to the site visits, food, and lodging, it was evident that Calgary cares about us, our delegates, and making an impact on the MICE industry.”

Sarah Beauchamp