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Calgary Stampede history to be featured in new $44M centre, open year-round

If 10 days in July isn’t enough time to scratch the Calgary Stampede itch, a new centre that will give visitors a year-round immersive experience of the show will soon fulfil that need.

More than a century’s worth of stories and artifacts from the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth have been given a home at the Sam Centre, which aims to blend traditional and modern approaches to showcasing the valued archives. 

Inspired by historic prairie architecture, the $44-million centre will offer interactive exhibits, multimedia shows, permanent displays and a restaurant. 

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new space on Wednesday, Don Taylor, scissors in hand, did the honours. His father, the late Calgary philanthropist Samuel Taylor, is the centre’s namesake.

“For years and years people have come to the city of Calgary and newcomers and they’ve always said, well, what’s the Stampede about? And you couldn’t take them except for the two weeks of the Stampede,” said Taylor. 

“And now we have something that we can show them what the Stampede is all about 365 days a year.”

A man in a black cowboy hat and a striped shirt looks at the camera.
Don Taylor, who donated $15 million to the Sam Centre, said it took about 13 years to make the project a reality. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

As a pioneer in Alberta, Taylor said horses were a large part of his father’s life.

“The horse is part of the culture of the Stampede and it’s part of the culture of Western Canada. And I think that type of thing should be preserved. It’s part of our history … and we should be celebrating that.”

Christine Leppard, the Sam Centre’s manager of exhibits and experience, said putting visitors at the heart of the multi-sensory Stampede collection is by design.

“You will put yourself into the Stampede parade through digital means, you get to add yourself into one of our iconic Stampede posters, learn the art of auctioneering, learn the art of trick roping and along the way meet some of the amazing humans who have helped shape our community,” said Leppard. 

Calling the space a “storytelling gem,” Leppard said the centre is not only about storing and displaying prized Stampede memorabilia, but about bringing people together.

“It is a space where year round, those of us who are Stampede lifers get to come and be inspired by the stories of our community and where people who are just getting acquainted or travelling here from around the world get a little taste of the heart of the Calgary community that is embodied in the Stampede every every year.”

The Sam Centre will officially open to the public on May 29.

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