The dust surrounding the World Championship Blacksmiths’ Competition is beginning to slowly clear after it was revealed Monday that the Calgary Stampede will be severing its ties after the 2014 event.
Although the competition no longer will be part of “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” Stampede officials say they have bigger plans for blacksmiths.
“In moving forward, we’re looking for a way to present blacksmithing with an even heightened profile,” says Bonni Clark, Calgary Stampede media spokeswoman. “Rather than presenting it over a few days, we want to have it over the full 10 days.”
The decision to move on from the WCB simply was about evolution, according to the Stampede.
“We have a strong track record of refreshing our program, of presenting our livestock shows in different and exciting ways,” Clark says. “It’s a process of continually evolving and presenting shows in new ways. It’s a chance for people to experience something that they haven’t seen before. We’ve enjoyed more than 3 decades of the competition and we’re looking forward to whatever comes next.”
With the 2015 event still 18 months away, Stampede officials still are exploring options and have no firm plans. Clark says organizers will be consulting with blacksmiths and other experts to determine the new direction.
“We’re still evaluating where we want to go,” she says. “We’re looking at innovative ways to showcase blacksmithing. People want to see something new and fresh.”
Yet, the world’s oldest legitimate profession still draws a crowd. Because of that, blacksmiths will continue to play a vital role at the Stampede.
“There’s something about transforming metal with fire,” Clark says. “It’s something that really engages and excites people. It’s something that we would love to continue to showcase. Blacksmithing connects an urban audience with the rural lifestyle. It captivates people and gets them asking questions. It’s a very visual and exciting skill.”
Although there isn’t much optimism among those in the blacksmithing industry about a return of the WCB to the Stampede, there are some who are hopeful about a change of heart.
“What everyone is hoping for is that there are 18 months before they pull the trigger on this and Calgary will change their mind,” says Craig Trnka of World Championship Blacksmiths. “I don’t know that that’s going to happen.”
Trnka’s pessimism is well placed.
“We’re looking at a number of different options,” Clark says. “I wouldn’t want to say yea or nay. We’re really looking at covering different options.”
As planning for the 103rd edition of the Stampede evolves, officials have something more pressing at hand — the 102nd, which includes its 35th and final World Championship Blacksmiths’ Competition on July 3-6.
“We love this competition,” Clark says. “The media, the public and kids are drawn to it like a moth to a flame, and we’re really looking forward to the competition this year.”