July 12, 2021
How dreams of an academic career took a detour to Stampede Park
Surrounded by stacks of bottled water, hand sanitizer and headsets, Dr. Christine Leppard, BA’06, PhD’14, places her Smithbilt on her desk at Stampede HQ, leans forward and asks, “Do you know where all the poop, that is created by all the animals on the grounds, goes every day?”
Can’t say that I do.
Right answer: All the poop (a.k.a. manure), along with the animal bedding from the barns, gets trucked off the grounds 10 times a day and is delivered to numerous farms to be used as fertilizer. This is just one little gem that you’ll glean on this year’s new Poop Tour (running eight times a day from Horse Haven in the Agriculture Building). Here’s another fun fact: Who knew that some 5,000 animals were involved in the Stampede and that a beef cow produces the most poop of all animals? Yep, the average amount of poop per cow clocks in at 37 kg per day, which adds up to a whopping 2,000 tonnes over 10 days.
Typically, Leppard and her team of 40 volunteers would run a slew of pop-up tours around the city as well as operate various park exhibits (including the Quirk House), but this year, “well . . . like everybody else, we’ve had to pivot and design some programs with new safety protocols in mind,” explains Leppard.
So, if you’re looking for a new activity that involves a small number of people (maximum group size is 10), is well-ventilated and comes with a bit of exercise, join one of two new walking tours: The Poop Tour and/or the Trailblazers Tour. While the Poop Tour may dazzle all ages with its little unknown facts and sustainability messages, the Trailblazers Tour will regale you with wild and woolly tales of the West and the legendary individuals behind Calgary’s annual 10-day festival. Again — who knew that long before trick-roper Guy Weadick started the Stampede in 1912, he performed in Paris and, on a bet, took his horse to the top of the Eiffel Tower?
Anticipating fewer international visitors and more locals in 2021, one of the historical committee’s goals is to “heighten and add depth to our knowledge about the Stampede and to really think about this treasured organization in a new light,” adds Leppard, who specialized in Canadian history at UCalgary. Although her PhD dissertation was on Canada’s role in the Second World War, one of Leppard’s top mentors was Dr. Warren Elofson, BA’71, PhD, whose most recent book, Rocking P Ranch and the Second Cattle Frontier in Western Canada, is a fascinating story of a successful family ranch in Alberta, with a significant focus on the experience of youth. Back when Leppard was a student, she helped Elofson by transcribing the Rocking P Gazette and in doing so learned more about ranching history.
“He really set me up for success with this job,” says Leppard, who confesses she “jumped at the chance to use my academic training to create meaningful public history opportunities in our community.
“I really do believe that historical understanding brings us together and helps create community.”
When Leppard isn’t at the epicentre of the 10-day event, the historical specialist is either stewarding the Stampede collection and archives (8,000 artifacts and 100,000 photographs), designing year-round opportunities to interpret and tell Stampede stories and is an adjunct assistant professor with UCalgary’s Department of History where she provides hands-on public history opportunities for undergrad students. And lately, she’s been more involved with the content team for the SAM Centre, Stampede’s 30,000-sq.-ft. museum/attraction and experience hub that is slated to open in 2023.
There’s no question that the logistics and program design for this year’s Stampede has been extraordinarily challenging, but, for Leppard, it’s also been a glimpse into the indomitable spirit of Calgarians and their beloved traditions.
“Stampede may be the name behind the festival, but it truly is a co-created production,” she says. “In many ways, Stampede history is a microcosm or a window into Calgary . . . we see it every year. That’s when our city is reflected back to us. In fact, you can go back through Stampede history and get a sense of what Calgary is, and what it stands for, at any given time.”
Both Calgary Stampede Insider Walking Tours run every two hours between noon and 8 p.m., each day of Stampede, which runs until July 18. Book a spot online or take your chances and turn up at Weadickville (for The Trailblazer Tour) or at Horse Haven in the Agriculture Building (for the Poop Tour). Both tours are free with admission.
The 2021 Calgary Stampede returns July 9 to 18 – volunteers and employees are looking forward to welcoming you back for a safe celebration. As a proud partner of the Calgary Stampede, UCalgary will feature opportunities to get in the spirit throughout the week.