The Strathmore Stampede enjoyed another amazing year, as the weekend brought in thousands of visitors and plenty of good memories.
The Strathmore and District Ag Society's General Manager Ryan Schmidt said 2023 continued a positive trend of seeing growth every year, as the Stampede has set a new attendance record every year since 2019, barring the one year that was missed due to covid.
"For example, our Friday night chuck wagons in 2019, which was in combination with the RCMP musical ride, led to a record 2665 seated attendance at that event. By 2023 this year our seated attendance on the Friday Chuck wagons was at 3667, so quite a significant increase, 33% over the last four years," he said.
This is in combination with a record 3795 people at championship Monday in 2023, up from 3346 in 2019. Schmidt said Friday and Monday has been their main target for growth, as Saturday and Sunday always sell out. Schmidt explained the Ag Society has found several ways to increase attendance and keep the Stampede growing, such as:
- Bringing in performers like Corb Lund, Gord Bamford and the James Barker Band for the past Friday Night Roundup Concerts.
- Selling combo tickets on Monday to make it more attractive to visit the grounds
- Continuing to grow and build the agricultural fair
Beyond those, Schmidt said there are a lot of smaller behind the scenes changes that have greatly improved the quality of life of the Stampede and contributed to the growing numbers. Since the Ag Society's staff has been consistent for the last couple of years the staff has really grown to know the ins and outs of the tiny details that make a big difference, even if most people wouldn't even think of it.
"We switched our admissions building over to make it a smoother entrance, we replace different entertainment pieces in different spots to make them easier to get to. Also, how you run the rodeo. Our rodeo committee pays very close attention to making sure the event moves along and it's action-packed without big lulls in it. So Donny Johansson, our arena director, he pays attention to every minute of the rodeo and he's got a timer on and makes it so that the kids can sit and take in the whole rodeo."
Other small but important details include things like how to organize parking, increasing handicapped accessibility, making the shuttle service more efficient, and more.
Schmidt said the highlight and stars of the rodeo are of course the athletes themselves, and as the Strathmore Stampede grows it allows the Ag Society to make it even more attractive for athletes to compete. Schmidt said the Ag Society is increasing the prize pool and investing the profits made from Stampede back into the event itself, so this in turn will bring more athletes and bigger names to Strathmore. When you're able to bring even more athletes, this will increase attendance, so the cycle of growth will hopefully continue and make Strathmore's Stampede bigger and better every year.
The Strathmore Ag Society is nonprofit, so all the money they make is reinvested into making the Stampede more enjoyable every year. While Schmidt doesn't have the profit numbers yet, he said every year it usually costs around $1 million to host the Stampede, and they hope to make around $200 000 in profit. With that money, Schmidt said the Ag Society has a couple upgrades in mind, like new rodeo washrooms.
Even though the Stampede wrapped up the Ag Society will still be busy hosting events all year, including rodeo school which is happening this week.
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