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1951::The Royal Winter Stampede

Updated: Feb 20

Calgary's special and only winter Stampede event designed to entertain visiting royals.

1951::Princess Elizabeth Arrives at the Royal Winter Stampede

"1951::Princess Elizabeth Arrives at the Royal Winter Stampede"

Photo Clip: The Sphere (1951)

London, England

Just months before she took the British throne as Queen Elizabeth II, the royal Princess and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, travelled across the continent on their first Royal Canadian Tour. On October 18, 1951, they arrived in Calgary, Alberta, and learned they had a special day ahead. They were to be Calgary's Guests of Honour at the Royal Winter Stampede, a 90-minute 'Mini-Stampede' designed just for them.

1951::Reception at the Stampede's Indian Village

"1951::Reception at the Stampede's Indian Village"

Photo Clip: Calgary Herald (1951)

Calgary, Alberta

After a short parade down 8th Avenue, Princess Elizabeth arrived at the Calgary Stampede's Exhibition Grounds by way of the old Halifax, Truro & Pictou Mail Coach, a tall wooden coach used to deliver mail in Nova Scotia in the late 1800s. A member of the Blackfoot Tribe escorted the queen around the Indian Village as her private interpreter and guide. She received a special song and dance as a welcoming gift, and Prince Philip a 10-gallon cowboy hat which he donned for the remainder of his day. When the official welcome was over, the royal couple snuck away to enjoy an unofficial Chuckwagon lunch. As they secretly dined on beef stew and biscuits with the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, the thermometer dropped to -8° Celsius and the snow began to swirl around them.

1951::Watching the Mini Rodeo at Calgary's Exhibition Grounds

"1951::Watching the Mini Rodeo at Calgary's Exhibition Grounds"

Photo Clip: Illustrated London News (1951) London, England

If the icy weather didn't make a difference to the bronco-riding cowboys, it didn't make a difference to the royal couple. They tucked themselves under a few buffalo hides and an electric blanket and watched the mini rodeo that Calgarians had designed just for them. They cheered along with 20,000 spectators who were lucky enough to buy a ticket for the event that quickly sold out...just as any summertime Stampede seat would. Some of the best riders and cowboys that ever competed at the Stampede showed up for the unique event and gave a memorable performance. A few even came close to breaking their own personal best. The event's highlights were Calf Roping, Steer Wrestling and a single Chuckwagon Race. It was an event the royal couple would never forget.

1951::Never Another

"1951::Never Another"

Clip: Claresholm Local Press (1951)

Claresholm, Alberta

In 1944, attendance for the regular summertime Calgary Stampede hit almost 300,000 people, while Calgary's population the same year barely hit 100,000. Calgary still hosts its world-renowned event today and still manages to shatter attendance records. The Royal Winter Stampede was never again. It remains the one and only Winter Stampede. As for Princess Elizabeth, she took the British throne just months later and, in 1973, returned to Calgary as Queen Elizabeth II to open their annual summertime Calgary Stampede.


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