Calgary Stampede Creates Rodeo Style Dinner Theatre

Tara Sweeney, CSEP and the team at Calgary Stampede produced this high profile gala to take place in succession with an annual conference. They had three goals: a WOW event for their client; a Stampede experience for guests and to showcase the Agrium Western Event Centre, the only indoor rodeo arena in Canada. They called it the “rodeo dinner theatre.”

Design was handled by One West Events with production of load in/out and tech drawings by Production Canada.


Along with a white hat welcome, guests arrived to a myriad of authentic stampede performances and pageantry including the Stampede Royalty, ropers, ranch girls, Harry the Horse, The Band of Outriders and more.

Once inside the space, guests dined on custom made platforms, creating a VIP experience for viewing. Local celebrity Dave Kelly, acted as emcee for the evening which started with a sample of the Grandstand Show, Stampede Showband, and the Young Canadians. Attendees were then “white hatted” and became honorary Calgarians.


As the lights went down, an aboriginal hoop dancer performed in a ring of fire to mark the beginning of the rodeo which included entertainment elements such as pyrotechnics, children “mutton bustin” with sheep and a country singer crooning to the crowd from the flatbed of a pickup truck. The show ended with such impressive bull riding that guests were standing on their seats with their smart phones out to catch all of the action. After dinner and the rodeo, the floor was turned into a lounge space with up lit bars, a band, and Stampede Midway vignettes. A sea of white hats could be seen from the concourse dancing and “stampeding” like the locals.

For this unique experience, the team at Stampede had to dig deep for creative solutions and innovative work arounds to many logistical and scheduling challenges. The event was an exercise in patience and origination.


  • All decor including custom linens for the tables, chair covers, bar fronts, lounges, centerpieces and floral was installed overnight and removed by 6 a.m.
  • The production team had to bring in a special floor that would be sturdy enough to cover the special footing and hold the weight of a concert stage.
  • They had limited access because there is only one service elevator in the building – teams were scheduled as to when they could access it and a repairman was on standby in case it broke down.
  • The short window of time did not allow for the install of a lighting truss so they received special permission from the building engineer to hang lights directly off the beams. This required the lighting team to come in overnight on two consecutive nights but they were only allowed after 11 p.m. the other event was done for the day.
  • Catering staff were challenged to the max by having to walk up and down stairs to serve a three course dinner carrying plates individually to guests, because they could not carry serving trays on the stairs. There were 600 guests.
  • All of other events’ signage, on south seating decks had to be removed and re-installed for their event in the morning.
  • Manage the budget with increased labour costs due to after hour scheduling.
    Back of house catering areas were built using drape as this venue did not have large enough catering space.
  • 15 vendor booths had to be fully disguised which were in place for the other event. This reduced the public space and space for bars.
  • The “other events” crew had to remove some panels of the LED screens in the arena to allow for this event to install stairs for guests to have access to the arena floor, they then needed to be re installed.
  • They loaded in and set up rodeo steel for the event and tore it down immediately after.
    A band quick change area was moved (because the other event built a stage where they had planned it previously).
  • 100 fake plants were removed immediately upon load in to allow for access and re installed post event.