July 9, 2019 4:41 pm
Updated: July 9, 2019 4:55 pm

Calgary Stampede restores historic president’s saddle ‘back to its former glory’

WATCH: People can always count on the Calgary Stampede to help them get in touch with western heritage. And there's one piece of that history that's just resurfaced this year, now restored to its former glory. Gil Tucker has the story.


Calgary Stampede president Dana Peers is enjoying an eye-catching new addition to his office: a piece of Stampede history known as the president’s saddle.

“Many of the previous (Stampede) presidents had ridden it in the parade and also prime ministers, so it was an honour to be able to ride the saddle,” Peers said. “I did not ride it this year. We decided that it’s reached an age where it deserves to be just strictly on display.”

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Peers came across the saddle under a tarp while looking through the Stampede’s collection of historical artifacts.

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

“It was sitting in the archives for approximately the last 25 to 30 years,” Peers said.

Stampede officials then turned to veteran saddle maker Church Stormes, who restored it in his workshop in Millarville, just south of Calgary.

“The saddle was made in Calgary, probably 70 years ago, so it needed a little TLC,” Stormes said. “I had to clean all the silver, recondition the leather, bringing it back to its former glory.”

Watch below (July 8): Robyn Feluch is a past winner of the Calgary Stampede’s art scholarship and is creating art at the BMO Centre throughout the Stampede. Leslie Horton takes some painting lessons from her at Fluor Rope Square.

READ MORE: Back in fashion: the sidesaddle makes a comeback at the Calgary Stampede

Although the saddle now sits on a stand behind Peers’ desk, he and Stormes took it out into Stampede Park, so visitors attending the 2019 Stampede could get a chance to check it out.

The saddle immediately caught the eye of Calgarian Kris Thorsteinson, who had brought his nine-year-old son Anders to Stampede.

“What a beautiful job you guys have done restoring this,” Thorsteinson said. “It’s absolutely fantastic!”

READ MORE: How to save money at the 2019 Calgary Stampede

“I look at it as just a beautiful piece of western art,” Peers said. “There’s a lot of cultural history tied into this.”

It turned out that Stormes had a personal connection with the saddle.

“The interesting part of it is (that) the fellow that I apprenticed with here in Calgary made this saddle originally,” Stormes said. “So it was great fun for me to be able to restore it.”

“That’s what Stampede’s all about, right?” Thorsteinson said. “Bringing it forward to the younger generation so they can understand what the true western spirit’s all about, what the Calgary spirit’s all about.”

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