Stampede Grandstand Show set to celebrate golden anniversary

It’s a spectacle of music, fireworks and stunts — the TransAlta Grandstand Show is a highlight of Stampede for many Calgarians.

The show started from humble beginnings, and this year will mark a half-century that the annual performances have been wowing crowds.

The show originally began in 1964 when the Calgary Stampede hired American Randolph Avery to create a locally produced Grandstand show that could rival the variety shows at state fairs, and even the Ed Sullivan Show.

The featured performers were the Calgary Kidettes, a singing and dancing troupe led by Margot McDermott.

Roller skating duo Alina & Yunier are part of an action-packed TransAlta Grandstand Show at this year’s Calgary Stampede. (Submitted)

In 1968 the Kidettes evolved into the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, who still perform nightly during the TransAlta Grandstand Show.

Rod Tate is the Director of Stampede Programming and appeared on The Homestretch on Wednesday to give a sneak-peek of sorts on what Stampede-goers can expect this time around.

Q: What can we expect to see this year?

A: You can expect everything you’re used to seeing at the Grandstand Show. It’s a unique, one-of-a-kind show that we can only put on here in Calgary at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

Q: When do you start planning for the Grandstand Show?

A: It’s quite a process and there’s a huge creative team that’s behind the Grandstand Show and believe it or not, we’re already in talks about what’s coming in 2019 and 2020. We develop those themes a good year, almost two years out, just to make sure we can continue to elevate the show to make it the most exciting, amazing production that Calgary has grown to love and enjoy.

It’s a spectacle of music, fireworks and stunts…the Grandstand Show is a highlight of Stampede for many Calgarians. The show started from humble beginnings 50 years ago and it’s grown into the production it is today. Rod Tate is the Director of Stampede Programming. 7:31

Q: It might be obvious given you’re celebrating the golden anniversary of the Grandstand Show, but what’s the theme for this one?

A: It’s all about 50 years. The grandstand building itself has been around for a long time, but really, what we’re doing is celebrating that this show is a uniquely Calgarian show. It was a great opportunity back 50 years ago when we said, ‘hey, you know what, we need to showcase what this community has to offer and we’ve been developing a show that does that year-after-year for the last 50 years. It’s not a retrospective, but it does have a nod to some of the incredible events that have happened over the past 50 years … and of course it’s got some special things that are new for this year as well.

Q: We mentioned off the top it started from fairly humble beginnings, what was that first Grandstand Show like?

A: It was a very special show because that was the very first show of the Young Canadians in the Calgary Stampede, so it was a great opportunity for us to showcase the talent of the youth in Calgary, and when we got that volume of performers on the stage, coming together in a choreographed sort of masterpiece, it was something special and it clicked. You might not have had all the technological advancements that we’ve had over the past number of years, but it was really something special that connected with our audience and tugged at their heartstrings.

Canadian Music Hall of Famer Andy Kim is set to croon to the crowds at this year’s Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. (Submitted)

Q: How has [the show] evolved over the years?

A: As the entertainment industry has continued to evolved, we’ve tried to be at the forefront of all of that, on everything from video to lighting to pyrotechnics to flying machines, we really try and throw everything we possibly can up in the air and see what isn’t possible. And we really dream the dream and keep pushing that envelope year over year.

Q: The show often includes celebrity appearances and performances, who are some of the most memorable guests you’ve had over the years?

A: We’ve had everybody from Mickey Mouse to Hidy and Howdy to Alan Thicke, to Taylor Hicks, to Roy Rogers, Tommy Hunter, Paul Brandt, Jann Arden, Frank Sinatra Jr., Brenda Lee, Brent Butt, I could go on and on. There’s always been amazing talent on that stage.

Q: There’s a real celebration going on this year, so who’s the headliner, or do you have one?

A: The real headliner of this show is the Young Canadians … as they turn 50 as well, so of course we’re going to be featuring them, but we’ve got some amazing artists that are going to be joining us as well. We’ve got the incredible illusionist Darcy Oake, we’ve got a very, very funny comedian Drew Lynch, we’ve got Canadian Music Hall of Famer Andy Kim, we’ve got Tim Tamashiro, everybody knows Tim, we’ve got a fun, fun visit from Eddie the Eagle and we’ve got this incredible roller skating duo you just have to see.

With files from The Homestretch

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