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'Expect to see great things': Optimism at the Stampede Canvas Auction

It’s a sign of spring in Calgary that’s often been called a barometer of the economy and the 2023 Calgary Stampede canvas auction has locals optimistic.

Though inflation has affected a lot of people recently, experts say Calgary’s economy is turning the corner, plus this year Stampede is celebrating a milestone, which proved positive for drivers looking to secure sponsors.

"We are moving in the right direction compared to last year," said Ruhee Ismail-Teja the policy and communications director at the Calgary Chamber. "We are facing different headwinds, some of the same and many are facing rising prices, but for the most part businesses see the light at the end of the tunnel."

More than 500 people were at the Big Four Roadhouse as sponsors bid for the right to advertise on chuckwagon tarps and get all the publicity that comes with the big event this July.

Kris Molle and Kurt Bensmiller tied for highest bid at $170,000.

The average bid was $101,852.

Last year's sponsorship total was $2.1 million for the chuckwagon drivers and their teams.

This year, the total was $2.75 million.

That makes organizers very happy as they were hoping to beat last year, which was a Stampede with a lot of uncertainty as we came out of COVID restrictions.


Stampede’s centennial auction in 2012 holds the records for single bid, average bid and total, which topped $4 million.

This year, Stampede is celebrating again, said Stampede agriculture and western events manager Kristina Barnes.

“Thrown into the mix this year is a celebration of 100 years of chuckwagons," Barnes said. "So we expect to see great things tonight in the community coming out in full support.”

Sponsors get advertising and behind the scenes parties during the 10-day event.

Recently some have been making a bit of their bid-money back by selling days to other groups.

Last year the format changed to only three chuckwagons race at a time to give each rig more room to maneuver.

Chuckwagon races, Calgary Stampede

That will continue this year, with a total of 27 drivers instead of the traditional 36. Going from 36 down to 27 choices might also play a part in the bidding.

The highest single tarp bid last year was $185,000 for Kurt Bensmiller.

That’s more than the top bids in the previous two auctions, which were $150,000 and $130,000.

Nothing tops the centennial year though, when the highest bid was $300,000.