Organizers celebrate Stampede success

·3 min read

After two years of limited operations, the Medicine Hat Exhibition & Stampede returned full force this summer, as did supporters, Stampede officials say.

“I don’t know how to explain it other than the feeling has been really good here,” general manager Ron Edwards said when the News caught up with him Friday. “We had great turnouts Wednesday and Thursday. The evenings have been great and people seem to have been really coming out.

As of Monday, official Stampede turnout numbers had not yet been released, but when interviewed Friday, Edwards said attendance for night shows, free entertainment stages and rodeos had exceeded exceptions.

“I really believe we’re on track,” said Edwards. “I talked to the midway owners and they said for Wednesday, opening day, they had record attendance. So that’s a really a good indicator for us.”

While Edwards shared confidence as he looked towards the final days of Stampede, he admitted he and his team had faced some challenges earlier in the week.

“When we opened up on Wednesday, we had some hiccups, for sure,” he said. “And some things we didn’t expect, like a rotten board in the Grandstand, or a parking lot which was jammed and we couldn’t get people out for an hour, or a vendor who didn’t show up so now there’s an empty space; just things like that. But I think once we got past Thursday and got two days under our belts, the hiccups started to get less and less.”

Despite the occasional challenge, Edwards said he and his team were proud of how the event came together. Especially, after observing the reaction of Stampede-goers.

“You watch the kids out here; even the older kids, they’re running around, and they’re hollering and they’re excited” said Edwards. “They’re just out here to have fun.

Over the course of the four days, many Stampede-goers expressed happiness with the event.

“It’s family entertainment for all ages,” said Garnet Carvery. “As opposed to focusing on just adults or just children, there’s a nice blend of age group activities. So, that’s very appreciated.”

Even those volunteering and working the event, were glad to take part.

“It’s fantastic,” Medicine Hat APEGA branch chair, Randi Buchner, said while operating a table at the Stampede’s Kiddies’ Day event. “It’s really exciting. And it’s a great opportunity to teach kids about science.”

Such feedback provides a boost for Edwards who, along with staff, committee members, volunteers and community partners, has worked long hours to put the Stampede together.

“I would just really like to thank everyone who has really supported us from the patrons who have bought the show tickets, rodeo tickets, and admission tickets, to all our volunteers and committees and our staff.

“And I really have to give accolades to our staff. Most of them have not been through (a Stampede before). And yet, they’ve been behind us. They’re putting 14-hour and 16-hour days in here, because we’re short staffed like everybody else. And yet, they’ve come to the table for us and really pulled us through. Without them we wouldn’t have a Stampede … To make this all happen after a couple of years of nothing; that’s a huge success in itself.”

As well as a benefit to the MHE&S as an organization, Edwards hopes tourism generated by this year’s Stampede will provide local businesses an economic boost. And return the support businesses have shown the Stampede throughout the past two years.

“The sponsorship that we have got from the business community has been unbelievable,” said Edwards. “I mean, let’s face it, they’ve come off a couple of tough years, and yet they supported us, they’re behind us, and I can’t thank them enough.”

KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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