Its\’ once again time for Encana Aggie Days. The annual weekend at Stampede Park, brings the grass roots of the country, into the heart of Calgary.
Over a hundred years, “we held Aggie Days in the Agriculture Building on Stampede Park,” recalls Leigh-Anna Barnes, vice-chair of the Calgary Stampede’s Aggie Days committee. “We’d hand milk out, and then we’d use empty milk crates for the kids to sit on to watch the animal demonstrations.”
More than a quarter-century later, Aggie Days now commands 100,000 square feet of exhibition space in the BMO Centre and the Corral on Stampede Park, with more than 30,000 weekend visitors annually. Aggie Days, sponsored by Encana, brings the farm to the city as it celebrates the agriculture industry, its surprising reach into the modern urban lifestyle, and its impact on our daily lives.
Following three days’ worth of pre-registered school groups, the Stampede’s 27th annual Aggie Days opens its doors to the public on Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., for Family Fun Days, offering free admission to all visitors.
“Every year, Aggie Days connects the urban public with what’s happening in the countryside. Aggie Days teaches urban residents where their food comes from, but it does much more than that,” says Jim Jorawsky, who chairs the Stampede’s Aggie Days committee. “Alberta was founded on agriculture, and our rural roots run deep in this province. Aggie Days has grown so much over the years because it truly strikes a chord within our contemporary urban culture.”
Aggie Days gives families a multi-sensory, hands-on opportunity to experience agriculture up close, offering a cornucopia of interactive displays, activities, entertainment, and live animal demonstrations.
“It’s a fun and often profound learning experience,” says Rod Garossino, community involvement advisor with Encana, the title sponsor of Aggie Days. “Kids and their parents come away with a better understanding and appreciation of the role and function of agriculture as the source of our food.
“We just love this program,” adds Garossino. “You can’t go into that building, feel the energy, and watch the kids’ experiences without getting hooked.”
Live animal demonstrations in the BMO Centre will include cow milking and sheep shearing, with a wide assortment of barnyard citizens on hand — including goats, newly hatched chicks, horses big and small, llamas, pigs, beef and dairy cows, bees, and even racing pigeons.
“Our visitors — kids, and their parents too — keep coming back, because every year they learn how much agriculture affects their lives. Everything from toothpaste to leather to chewing gum to fabric softener comes from the agriculture industry . . . we utilize 99 per cent of a beef animal,” says Barnes.
Agrium will return with its ever-popular, interactive Seed Survivor game. The Stampede’s Centennial Indian Princess, Amelia Crowshoe, will preside over the Indian Village. The Aggie Days Passport Program, with six booths to visit across the BMO Centre, is offering Stampede Rodeo and Chuckwagon/Grandstand ticket packages to its winners.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Calgary Stampede Grandstand Show director Bill Avery, and Kendra Gale and her miniature horse Hawk will be among the guest readers entertaining kids in Story Corner all weekend, with literary titles including The Rusty, Trusty Tractor by Joy Cowley, Bibi the Bull by Carol Waage, and Farmer Joe and the Music Show by Tony Mitton.
Aggie Days exhibitors include the Alberta Beef Producers, the Alberta Canola Producers, Alberta Milk, Alberta Pork, the Alberta Chicken Producers, the Canadian Rabbit Hopping Club, the Reynolds-Alberta Museum, the Egg Farmers of Alberta, and Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.
Aggie Days will also be spiced up with exciting weekend events being held next door in the Corral.
Clock, Stock and Barrel, the Stampede’s annual spring stock dog arena trial, will take over the Corral infield on the morning and afternoon of Saturday, April 21. A Rodeo 101 clinic will be held over the noon hour on April 21. The Calgary Stampede Spring Extreme Cowboy Race, a fascinating spectacle that challenges horse-and-rider teams with daunting obstacle courses, will hold court in the Corral on Sunday, April 22, starting at 10 a.m. And across Stampede Park under the Big Top, the 10th annual Canadian Horseshoeing Championships hold their final day of competition on April 21.
“This event has had incredible continuity in terms of the commitment from our volunteers,” says Stampede agriculture program co-ordinator Kelly Chambers. “We have numerous volunteers who were involved in the very first Aggie Days, and their own grown children are now volunteering as well.
“It’s such a good show,” adds Chambers. “It’s just about everything you could ask for from the world of agriculture.”