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The origins of the Stampede Queen and Princess Contest

In 1946, Patsy Rodgers (now Henderson) was asked by members of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Board to become their first Stampede Queen.  Riding her horse in the opening day parade, and leading the Grand Entry before each afternoon rodeo performance, she made many public appearances during that week as the 1946 Stampede Queen.

The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede then asked Patsy to represent the organization and Canada on a rodeo tour throughout the United States.  She went to Fort Worth, Texas, where she was joined by five other young ladies, each a rodeo Queen from a different State. As Patsy was the sole Canadian representative, she was named “Miss Rodeo Canada”. 

The six rodeo queens attended the famous Gene Autry Lightning “C” Ranch at Dublin, Texas for a three day show, as well as taking a special rodeo train to New York City where they made daily appearances in a four week rodeo event at Madison Square Gardens.  They participated in the grand entry, rode in several New York Parades, visited hospitals, and made publicity appearances to promote the Madison Square Gardens events, and for Patsy, the Calgary Stampede. 

From New York, the contingent traveled to Massachusetts where they participated in a two week rodeo at the Boston Gardens.  Finally, after being on the road since September, Patsy returned home in late November. 

She continued to ride in the Calgary Stampede Parade until 1996, and continues to be a committed and active member of the Stampede Queens’ Alumni Committee. 

In 1947, the Associated Canadian Travellers (A.C.T.), whose purpose was to raise funds for local community associations and charities, had communities’ sponsor one contestant through the sale of tickets, and competitions related to personality and riding ability.  The winner was called a “Sponsor Girl” and the two runner-ups were “Ladies in waiting”.  The details of how these competitions were conducted can be found in the Calgary Stampede Queens’ Committee Archives.  From 1947 to 1963, the winners were chosen by this method.  Interestingly, married contestants were allowed and it was Merle Steir, the married Queen in 1949, who suggested that contestants be single!

From 1959 – 1963, to ensure that the winners were able to ride and were interested in, and able to represent the Stampede effectively,  the top ticket sellers (5-10, depending on the total number of entrants), underwent a rigorous judging competition on appearance, poise, intelligence, and riding ability.  Activities included a meet and greet dinner, public speaking, individual interviews with questions pertaining to the contest, the city, the Stampede, etc., riding a horsemanship pattern in the arena, and constant appraisals by “secret” judges. 

Donna Brasso (nee Thomson) was invited to compete for Miss Rodeo America 1962 in Las Vegas as Canada’s representative.  There was no Miss Rodeo Canada contest at that time. 

When Peter Degenstein and Jack Gow, active members of the A.C.T., joined the Stampede Family, the requirement to sell tickets was dropped.  The contest rules were expanded, and the winner was selected by a panel of judges, based on explicit criteria, which included:

Young women between the ages of 19 to 24 who were single, never divorced, separated, or married that lived within the Calgary telephone exchange had riding experience, enjoyed meeting people and were willing to devote much of their time to public appearances.

Although there were no ticket sales in 1965 and 1966, the Stampede worked closely with the A.C.T.  to ensure a smooth transition that would eventually lead to the Calgary Stampede having full responsibility for choosing its Royal trio.

The current competition specifies the following conditions:

  • Female not <19 years of age and not >24 years as of January 1 of the competition year (copy of birth certificate to be included with entry form)
  • Canadian Citizen
  • Current resident of Alberta for minimum of past 12 months.
  • Never married or not have had a child.
  • Agree not to marry during reign if successful
  • Agree to reside within a 40 mile (64 km) radius of Stampede Park.  Place of employment or educational institution must also meet this criteria.
  • Have achieved high school diploma or equivalent
  • Possess valid driver’s license and access to a vehicle.
  • Must not have a criminal record, and consent to a security check.
  • Competent riding ability is a necessity.

Contestants are judged by a minimum of 28 men and women from all walks of life.  Members of the Calgary Stampede, Stampede Board of Directors, Stampede Management, staff, as well as members of the Royalty Committee and their spouses are ineligible to judge.

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