Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

August 2013

Calgary Underwater: How "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" Survived Severe Flooding

As told to Michelle Russell, Editor in Chief

the track, because it takes such a long time to rebuild it. We did lose the track at about 1:30 p.m. on Friday, which was a heartbreaking moment. That’s when you start questioning what is going to happen with the Stampede.

We were able to rebuild that track in the slightly less than two weeks that we had — and from what we’re hearing from the competitors, they’re absolutely loving that track. We had to strip it right down to bedrock and rebuild it. That was trucks going 24 hours a day, crews working 24 hours a day to rebuild that track in the amount of time they had. It’s just incredible, and we’ve had some great partners helping us through the process.

THE SHOW MUST GO ON

There has been a lot of excitement. Our ticket sales for most of our ticketed events were all sold-out in advance. We are still facing some inclement weather, which has hurt our attendance numbers. We’re down — it’s hard to beat our numbers from last year, being that was our 100th anniversary. But even compared to 2011, we’re down, but very incrementally. And I would blame that not on the floods. I would blame that on the fact that it’s been raining every day.

[That we pulled this off] is really the power of people — in a difficult time, you really see what people are capable of. We as an organization are not-for-profit and heavily volunteer-based. We have somewhere in the vicinity of 4,000 volunteers that help us out during the Stampede, and it was a difficult time because the city, the downtown core, was a natural disaster zone. So, with a lockdown you had to clear security to come in, and we couldn’t have any of those volunteers come in to help us — nor did we want them to. We sent all of our volunteers out into the community to be in the emergency response centers and helping the citizens of Calgary get back into their homes. And that really needed to be the focus for Calgarians.

Now we’re here and we’re having a celebration that is fantastic — a little moment for people to take their mind off of everything that is happening.

The Calgary Stampede has upwards of a $350-million economic impact on the city. We operate as a convention center on a year-round basis, and then we basically hold our own convention for 10 days. It’s our Stampede. And that economic impact is so important to so many citizens that canceling the Stampede would have had a lot larger impact than not going ahead. We really needed to find a way to make it happen.

WATCH a time-lapse video of the post-flooding clean-up:

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