Brenda Spanier, of Cochrane, Alta., is the lucky winner of a 2012 Calgary Stampede Centennial Saddle, after her name was recently drawn from hundreds of entries in a raffle organized by the Stampede’s Western Performance Horse Committee.
“I’m so thrilled. It’s a bit surreal to win a saddle like this,” says Spanier. “If I do use it, it’ll be on my special horse Ranger. But for me, it’s always something that’s going to be a collector’s item.
“One of the things I am going to do is put it on display down here at the store (Cochrane’s Home Quarter Mercantile and Pie Shoppe, a Western store and restaurant, where she works). That way, so many other people will get to see it and appreciate it.”
Back in the spring of 2011, the Stampede’s Western Performance Horse Committee commissioned the production of up to 100 identical Vic Bennett Custom All-Round Saddles, to be handcrafted exclusively for the Stampede’s upcoming Centennial festivities in July.
Bennett, one of the premier saddle makers in North America, has been working feverishly with a two-man crew in his Sherwood Park, Alta., shop to meet demand for these “gift-of-the-century” saddles, which are still available for sale to the general public.
“It’s beautiful. The craftsmanship is extraordinary. I’ve worked in tack stores before, and I’m very familiar with Vic Bennett saddles — their reputation, the quality of their work,” says Spanier. “I’m just thrilled.”
Bennett’s Stampede Centennial creations, which will never be reproduced, boast meticulous craftsmanship and painstaking detail, with the Calgary Stampede brand even lasered on the stirrup. These limited-edition saddles — which are currently more than 60 per cent sold — will include their own number and certificate of authenticity, and will be signed by both Bennett and Michael Casey, the Stampede’s President and Chairman of the Board.
Casey himself drew Spanier’s name from the ballot box for one of these coveted Vic Bennett saddles on Wednesday, Jan. 11.
“To purchase a saddle made by Vic Bennett is a great opportunity in itself, because he’s such a fine craftsman. And if people take advantage, they’ll have not only a great saddle they can use, but something that is really a piece of art, to celebrate the Stampede’s Centennial,” says Casey.
“It’s hard to think of something better, in terms of a keepsake. The whole of tenor of Guy Weadick (back in 1912) was to have a Wild West show with the best cowboys and the best stock,” he adds. “To be able to commemorate that with a saddle from an artist like Vic is, I think, just a wonderful opportunity.”
CNNGo.com, CNN’s travel website, recently hailed the limited-edition Stampede Centennial Saddle as one of the world’s Top 10 travel souvenirs of 2012. “No, we don’t ride horses. Half our staff are challenged by the beasts at petting zoos. That doesn’t mean we don’t know true cowboy art when we see it,” reads the CNNGo.com entry on the Centennial Saddle. “Fortunately, you don’t have to . . . get thrown off a horse to buy this beautiful piece.”
View CNNGo.com’s full Top 10 travel souvenirs of 2012 list at http://www.cnngo.com/explorations/shop/10-souvenirs-for-2012-903066
There’s still time for members of the public to latch on to that Stampede legacy by purchasing one of Bennett’s creations, and securing their own priceless piece of Western artwork.