I was so excited that when my husband surprised me with plane tickets back in August that I would be flying back to my beloved Alberta; where I am from, rich in heritage and family ties; for my birthday as I lamented on how I missed the harvest season of the prairies – the sights, smells, etc – it had been at least 10 years since I had experienced that. He booked the tickets not knowing that the dates would fall on several events that were right up my alley!
One was the final equestrian competition and crowning ceremony for the 2015 Calgary Stampede Queen and Princesses competition. This is significant to me because I am part of the Calgary Stampede Queens’ Alumni, having been a princess in the 1995 Royal Trio. It has been quite a dry spell since I’ve been out west for a Queens’ Alumni event, let alone the crowning ceremony of the new Royal Trio.
It was on Monday September 29 at the Agrium Western Event Centre – which is pretty much a brand new building facility at the Stampede Park downtown Calgary. I met up with my other princess, Lisa, shortly after 4pm as the Queens Alumni were involved in this ceremony because of the outgoing 2014 Queen Danica Heath and Princesses Shannon Black and Stephanie Patterson being welcomed into the Calgary Stampede Queens’ Alumni. You can read about them here and what this organization all does and why I’m so proud to be part of this sisterhood!
The new Agrium Western Event Center was just simply gorgeous with the open foyer when you walk in, with escalators taking you up to the second level where you can walk over to the seating area that slopes down into the ground level where the dirt is harrowed smoothly with the beautiful white bucking chutes completed with the red C over a lazy S, the easily recognizable brand of the Calgary Stampede. Lisa and I were joined by several other Alumni members, where we found ourselves setting up the Forever Remembered bronze on the table in the dirt and eventually dressing up a pair of mannequins at the top floor shortly before the cocktail reception started.
Cocktail reception came up so we were able to mingle amongst the sponsors, the judges, the six finalists in the competition, the current 2014 Royal Trio, the many alumni who showed up. I found myself walking through several different room that each had a buffet table with delicious hors d’oeuvres to be had, including bison meat, beef, cheeses, fruits, veggies, pork as well as hors d’oeuvres bite sized desserts. There was also an open bar available for us guests who were there by invitation. The smell of the delicious foods mingled with the smell of the fresh dirt which brought back so many fond (and sentimental!) memories of my rodeo years.
We all found seats in the stands where we began a program where the Royalty sponsors were acknowledged one by one, acknowledged the judges and auditor, introduced the 2014 Stampede Queen and Princesses. The Queens Alumni then did a presentation. The “Forever Remembered” bronze was mentioned, which was personal to me because one of the late Queens, Erin (1993), was like a big sister to me whom encouraged me to run in the 1995 Stampede Queen and Princesses contest. She sadly passed away back in 2012 and this was the first Queens’ Alumni I’ve ever attended that Erin was not there. Her absence was sorely felt and I’m sure by many others. They did a slide show of all the late Queens and Princesses, which was so beautifully done.
Then Danica, Shannon and Stephanie were officially welcomed into the Queens’ Alumni organization. Each of the ladies took turns speaking. Then it was time for an intermission as the hour of being open to the public was coming. The bar and foods were already closed and removed from the rooms. I mingled around and running into old friends, familiar faces and enjoyed seeing the faces of many whom I went up asking, “Hi! Remember me?” with their faces lighting up in recognition and being pulled into bear hugs and how are you’s. I think I spent more time chatting than actually taking pictures or checking out the decor!
The final horsemanship and speeches part was about to begin. Several of us alumni sisters decided to do a bet where we each put in a $5 entry fee and had to write down 3 names from the 6 finalists who we thought would win. Most of us hadn’t met any of the ladies before this night but that didn’t discourage us at all! It was also during this time I met both the 2014 and 2015 Calgary Stampede Indian Princesses, Carly Weasel Child and Maya Many Grey Horses, respectively. You can read more about them here.
The six finalists were introduced, Shelby Simmonds, Carla Olstad, Meagan Peters, Haley Peckham, Kimberly Stewart and Mick Plemel. The first three ladies went back to get on their horses while the latter three remained as they did their final speeches through impromtus. Then the ladies did their horsemanship patterns in order as listed with Shelby, Carla and Meagan concluding the competition with their final impromtu speeches.
While the scores were being tallied up, we were entertained by Smokin Aces Trick Riding Entertainment who is a duo made up of two talented ladies, Bradi Dunn and Kirstie Rougeau. Kirstie is a Queens Alumni member, having been a 2010 CS Princess. They were followed by a demonstration by Jim Anderson, who was the winner of the prestigious Road to the Horse competition in 2014 with his horse, “Maverick”. It was so neat watching him and Maverick communicate completely bridleless and no saddle. He also happens to be the horsemanship sponsor to the Royal Trio and works with the Royal Trio horses, Hawk, Snoopy and Kansas throughout the year.
By now, I am reliving the feelings of anticipation of the crowning. I felt butterflies in my stomach, my palms were starting to sweat and I could feel my pulse increasing. It has been nearly 20 years since I’ve been a contestant in the Calgary Stampede Queen and Princesses competition but the feelings simply do not go away. I so identified with what those six finalists were experiencing right at that moment! It wasn’t done yet. Danica, Shannon and Stephanie did their farewell rides and then the crowning moment was upon us. The table was covered in the flowers, buckles, gifts. Several Stampede officials, including the President and Chairman of the Board, Bob Thompson, was there at the table. They waited before the envelope arrived where they announced the 2015 Stampede Princesses – Kimberly Stewart and Haley Peckham. Lots of hugging and tears going on! Then the remaining four ladies stood there holding hands as they waited to find out who the new 2015 Stampede Queen was. Mick Plemel’s name was announced and she looked so elated.
They then got on the Stampede Royal Trio horses and did a victory lap. I caught them wiping tears from their eyes as they all dismounted and embraced each other into a group hug. They were off for photo shoots and already had an appointment the following morning on Global TV. There is no time after being crowned to actually relax, sit down and process it all. You basically hit the ground running – I know this from personal experience!
As for me? I thoroughly enjoyed sitting and hanging out with my friends and Alumni Sisters, including one who also held two titles as I did – Calgary Stampede Princess and Miss Rodeo Canada, Tara. And being able to spend some precious time with my Trio, Lisa and Allison. I wish the miles didn’t separate me from these amazing ladies and people who have contributed to who I am today in spite of being deaf.