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Calgary Stampede exhibit celebrates 1919 ‘Victory Stampede’: ‘building community spirit’

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WATCH: Getting in touch with our western heritage is always a big part of the Calgary Stampede. And this year brings a great opportunity to connect with a very special moment in Stampede history. Gil Tucker has the story – Jul 4, 2019

A lot of visitors to the 2019 Calgary Stampede will be capturing the experience by shooting photos and videos on their cell phones.

But some of them will be going home with memories of a much older phone — an old rotary-dial “candlestick” model that’s about 100 years old.

It’s included in a special exhibit in a pioneer cabin in the Weadickville area at Stampede Park, part of a salute to the Victory Stampede in 1919.

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The event came just months after the end of the First World War.

“It was about building community spirit,” Stampede historical specialist Christine Leppard said. “At a time when the community was struggling to recover.”

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Leppard helped put together the exhibit, which features artifacts from the era, including a telegraph machine, a gramophone and the old ‘candlestick’ phone.

“Telephones were new technology,” Leppard said. “Visitors to the cabin will be able to make a local call [on the old phone].”

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The exhibit also includes historical photos and video of early Stampede events, such as the rodeo.

“Some of the competitors had been soldiers,” Leppard said.

The displays also show how southern Alberta’s indigenous communities contributed to the Stampede.

“1919 was a really important year for our development of our relationship with First Nations,” Leppard said. “This was a place where the families could come, celebrate together, share their cultural story, and it is a reason that many of the families who were here in 1919 still come today.”

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Leppard was giving a tour of the cabin to a visitor from Great Falls, Montana.

“It’s so wonderful to just jump into all of this history!” Duane Braaten said.

Braaten is with the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls, which is also contributing to the Victory Stampede commemoration.

The museum showcases the work of renowned American cowboy artist Charlie Russell.

“[Stampede founder] Guy Weadick invited Charlie to come up and have a special exhibition here on the grounds [during the 1919 Stampede],” Braaten said.

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Braaten has travelled to Calgary with 24 reproductions of Russell’s paintings, which will be on display throughout the Stampede in the Western Oasis area in the BMO Centre.

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“It really is such a great opportunity,” Braaten said. “And it’s so fun, how the histories intersected 100 years ago.”

“We decided to celebrate [the Victory Stampede] this year because it’s the 100th anniversary,” Leppard said. “And today, like 100 years ago, the goal of the Stampede is to be a space that builds community spirit.”

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