Stampede fans extraordinaire

From 75-cent to $96 rush seats, Endiang couple has saddled through Calgary Stampede history

Ken and Eleanor Schultz leaf through some of their Calgary Stampede memorabilia from a 70-year run.

Among 1.4 million guests at the centennial Calgary Stampede last week were Endiang’s Ken and Eleanor Schultz.

What makes the Schultz couple stand out from the crowd is the fact that it was Ken’s 70th time at the Calgary Stampede, while Eleanor has attended about 60 of the stampedes.

Attendance numbers at Calgary’s 100-year stampede broke all records, and while Ken’s longstanding presence might not be a record, it does show extraordinary support for the sport.

Ken, 76, first attended the Stampede in 1939, going with his maternal grandparents, Gibson and Emmie Richardson. He attributes his love of rodeo to his grandfather, who operated a horse ranch near Endiang prior to moving to Calgary in 1936, and had a “great love for rodeo.”

Since 1942, Ken has been at every Calgary Stampede but one.

As a child, he would stay with his grandparents in Calgary during the summer to take in the Stampede. Sometimes, his cousins would also stay, and he remembers going to pancake breakfasts and watching square-dancing on the streets.

“We always went to the rodeo every day of the six-day show,” Ken recalled. “Grandma would pack bologna sandwiches for lunch.

“When the gates opened, we would run to get a rush seat in the bleachers, trying be early enough to get one under the over-hang of the grandstand.”

The rush seats then cost 75 cents, while in contrast, the reserved seating the Schultzes had this year cost $96.

Eleanor, also 76, attended her first Calgary Stampede in 1947 with her parents, Ralph and Tillie Tucker. Since about 1952, she has attended every stampede but one.

“We scheduled everything around the Calgary Stampede,” said Eleanor, when asked how they managed to attend so many stampedes.

“Well, not everything,” Ken said with a laugh.

The only stampede the couple missed was in 1961 when their first daughter, Valerie, was born that July.

“We used to take somebody local with us every year that hadn’t been to the Stampede before,” Eleanor said.

The Schultzes have saved a ticket stub from gate admission to the stampede grounds from the mid-1940s. The entry cost then was 25 cents, compared to $16 this year. They also have a large collection of stampede programs from almost every year since 1952, most costing 50 cents or a dollar.

This year’s centennial program wasn’t added to the collection.

“Ten dollars for a program is just too much,” Ken said after not buying this year’s edition. “There have been a lot of changes to the stampede, but they have been gradual.”

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