Another in our Designer’s Notebook series, a finalist for Event Solutions Spotlights, Event Site of the Year, 2015
Contributed by the Calgary Stampede
A venue that celebrates western heritage, cultures and community spirit — that’s Calgary Stampede. This unique Canadian venue has hosted some rousing events this past year that have allowed planners and staff to strut their stuff.
Agrium Grand Opening
In 2014, the Calgary Stampede opened the Agrium Western Event Centre, the heart of the year-round western events and agricultural education in Stampede Park. It was one of the largest projects in the Stampede’s 102-year history and provides a state-of-the-art facility for national and international equine competitions, rodeos, agricultural exhibitions and tradeshows. Without parallel in Canada, this facility launches the Calgary Stampede onto the world stage of high performance equine productions.
At the official opening event, the team was careful to plan for a large crowd and put extensive thought into crowd control. Signs and Stampede employees directed guests through the various spaces. Trolleys shuttled guests from a free parking area to the building. RCMP officers, ranch girls on horseback and the Calgary Show Band greeted guests as they arrived to the building.
The exhibition hall featured a variety of family-friendly activities and seating for guests to eat lunch. Roving entertainment moved throughout the building to entertain guests while Stampede volunteers served hamburgers outside the building. Equine programming, such as an Arabian horse demonstration in the arena, showcased the capabilities of the space. Stampede and Agrium VIP’s entered the arena on a heavy horse hitch to present an official ribbon cutting ceremony. Attendees were able to view the VIP suites and discuss opportunities to rent then during the 10-day July Stampede.
In preparation for the opening of the Agrium, venue staff re-branded the traditional corporate rodeo that had been produced for the past five years. Traditionally, corporate rodeos had been the same format as the classic Stampede rodeos. The sales team felt that guests who attend a corporate rodeo wanted to network and be entertained and were not as interested in the traditional sport format. The result was to:
• shorten the rodeo to just under an hour
• reduce the amount of rodeo events and performers
• add entertainment pieces
• reduce the seating area in the arena and
• allow guests to stand next to the action and make the event an entertainment showcase, rather than a rodeo competition/event.
Social Enterprise World Forum Rodeo
Fiddlers, horseshoe branders and White Hat presenters greeted guests upon arrival to the reception space. Guests mingled as appetizers and Lynchburg lemonade cocktails were passed. The melody of the western fiddles directed the crowd to the arena for the main event. The country band belted out tunes that got the crowd dancing in the stands and energized for the show to start. Guests were able to stand in the dirt right next to the action or sit in the stands. Lights fade to black … cue the video, splash of pyrotechnics, 50 minutes of heart pounding rodeo entertainment. A pick-up truck rolled into the dirt carrying a singer crooning “Ring of Fire” as pyrotechnics boomed. The program ended with a crowd favorite: bull riding. Following the rodeo, Aboriginal drums and grass dancers led guests to the post reception where they watched award-winning hoop dancer Dallas Arcand. Guests were able to take their souvenir photo on “Fred the Bull,” a life-sized bull. A DJ played for the crowd, who mingled as they sampled a variety of western fare served at action station throughout the room. Guests could select from a variety of seating styles including western lounges. A grand time was had by all.
The Sasol Saloon
Sasol, a South African company, hosted staff, clients and its CEOs to a Calgary tradition. The goal was to incorporate South Africa and the western flare of the Calgary Stampede into one space. Guests were welcomed to the “Sasol Saloon” that was designed with chic western lounges, custom wood bars, high and low lounge seating highlighted with wild animal prints. The main focal point of the room was an animated video backdrop featuring computer-generated landscapes of the South African plains and the majestic Alberta scenery, nestled amongst fresh spruce trees.
Invitees were treated to a custom menu with chef-carved AAA Alberta beef, extensive charcuterie and antipasto stations, handmade empanadas and a generous sushi station. South African wine was offered at the wine bar, and guests were able to create a custom Caesar with unique flavors such as bacon vodka, salsa, spiced green beans and pickles. Dessert was presented as a self-serve candy bar arranged on a vintage door. This featured treat of the night was a unique chef-attended s’mores station. Attendees were able to choose unusual toppings and roast marshmallows over a vintage mini-wheel barrel.
It’s events like this that keep Calgary Stampede out in front!
Photos: Leblond Studio Inc.