The Stampede will be severing its ties with the WCB competition, leaving a sizable void at “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” as well as lingering doubts about the future of the shoeing event.
“It’s a corporate decision that [the competition] no longer fits inside the future plans around the direction that the Stampede wants to go,” says Marshall Iles, a volunteer member of the competition committee and a spokesman for World Championship Blacksmiths. “They want to connect with the urban audience more, which I’m not really sure what that means.”
A Calgary Stampede spokesperson did not return phone calls for comment.
For 10 days each July, more than a million visitors descend upon Calgary, Alberta, to attend one of the largest rodeos, exhibitions and festivals in the world. The event has come under increasing scrutiny from animal rights groups and politicians.
“As the world goes,” Iles said, “we’re seeing all types of animal entertainment in a dog fight for existence.”
Vancouver, B.C., Humane Society spokesman Peter Fricker, an outspoken critic of the Calgary Stampede, was not available for comment Monday.
Although the event will stage its last event at the Stampede on July 3-6, Iles is confident that this year’s edition will not be its swan song.
“A lot of people are calling it the end of the world,” he says. “It’s not. It closes the book on one chapter and opens a new door to all new possibilities. It’s shown that it’s a worthwhile program for the last 35 years. There’s every indication that it will continue and that it will thrive.”
Until the hammers fall silent, Iles and the competition committee are focusing on the task at hand.
“This year is a go and it’s going to be our best and brightest,” he says. “We have two phenomenal judges: Bob Pethick, who is in the [International Horseshoeing] Hall Of Fame, and Gary Darlow, who is long considered the best shoer in the world by most world champions. So, we’re pretty excited about that.
“[The Calgary Stampede] is supporting us and promoting us for 2014,” Iles continued, “and after that, it’s a brave new world.”