In the beginning…the Association
In 1971, anticipating the interest and need for continued communication among past royalty, Merle Steir, Patti Henderson, and Donna Brasso met with Alex Bailey of the Stampede Royalty (formerly Queen) Committee (the committee responsible for choosing the Stampede Royalty every year) to discuss the idea of forming an Alumni Association of all past Queens, Ladies in Waiting and Princesses.
In the spring of 1972, the fledging alumni group contacted many of the past queens and princesses and invited them to meet in the Boardroom of Brasso Nissan to determine the overall interest of officially forming an Alumni. The response was very positive and the first Executive was chosen including Merle Stier, Chair, Donna Brasso, Vice Chair, and Doreen Fowlie, Secretary- Treasurer.
Also in 1972, the formation of the Women’s World Committee, the Stampede’s first all female committee, was established by past Queens and Princesses. This committee’s main focus was to be public relations, but they also established a “Women’s World” site during Stampede. This display in Flare Square featured a historical, modern, and future kitchen.
Other activities included the design and production of a distinctive pin, a white hat with a crown, to be worn by past royalty. During Stampede, several Alumni rode in the parade, hosted Tourist and Convention functions and the annual Hays Breakfast, and presented mini western fashion shows.
In 1973, Women’s World was asked to take over the handicraft competition and display and for the next two years, a pink and white striped tent adjacent to the old Administration Building was the focus of their activities. It showcased the handicrafts, many other displays, and professional fashion shows.
This year also saw the Alumni ride together in the Stampede parade as a color party, which has now become an annual event for Association and Committee members.
By 1975, Women’s World had developed such a variety of activities that more space was needed and a move was made to the Corral. Additional activities, including innovative cooking competitions and a Western Art Display and Auction, necessitated a later move to the Big Four Building. During these years, many Alumni members became active Stampede volunteers on the Women’s World Committee, and many others assisted whenever and wherever they could. As Women’s World assumed increasing responsibilities, more “man-power’ was needed and volunteers from the community, including men were added. The committee evolved into the Creative Living Committee, with many Alumni choosing to stay active.
In 1976 the annual luncheon was established where royalty from the previous year were officially inducted into the Alumni and the current Queen and Princesses are introduced to the group. That same year, the Alumni also started the Stampede Stomp, a pre-Stampede party for all volunteers, which saw a turnout of hundreds of volunteers. They also continued their other activities including hostessing individual events and mini fashion shows.
In 1978 the Alumni designed and purchased the permanent dazzling silver crowns worn by the Queen and Princesses each year. At the completion of their reign, these crowns are passed to the incoming royalty.
In 1979, the Alumni began its signature commitment to sponsoring activities for special needs children. With the approval of the Stampede Publicity Department, and wonderful support from Conklin Shows, the Alumni organized the first “Stampede Special”, a morning of Conklin Midway rides, western entertainment including bands and mascots, and a pancake breakfast for hundreds of special needs children and their families or companions. Over the years, this event has grown substantially and now hosts over 400 children. In 2001, this event was renamed Giddy-Up Grits as the Alumni continued to brand their events with the Giddy-Up logo.