A year ago, Keily Stewart had never considered the idea of being a part of Calgary Stampede royalty, nor was she interested. Little did she know that 12 months later the experience would change her life.
Stewart grew up around horses at the family farm in Baldonnel. Though she wasn’t involved much in rodeo, her father, Glenn, traveled the world teaching horsemanship clinics and horses were in her blood. Stewart first heard of the opportunity to be the Calgary Stampede Rodeo Princess in the spring of 2018, but it took some convincing before she decided to apply.
“Someone told my dad about it and he mentioned it to me. I was very opposed to the idea at first because I didn’t think it suited me and couldn’t do it. We talked about it and he told me about the importance of being pushed outside your comfort zone, so I decided to apply,” said Stewart.
She began the month-long competition in September of 2018, which consisted of giving both prepared and impromptu speeches, giving interviews, and displaying good horsemanship and riding ability. She was named 2019 Calgary Stampede Princess on September 24, 2018, and began her one-year term in the position at that point.
Being a rodeo princess or queen is a lot more than just riding around the ring and waving. It includes going to countless events, representing the Stampede, public speaking, and riding, among other things.
“It’s a full-time job, which most people don’t understand and I didn’t either. We went to almost 450 events throughout Alberta and the world,” Stewart said.
Her role took her to both Las Vegas and Paris on behalf of the Stampede.
“Our role was to promote and preserve the values of the Stampede, and the hospitality and community of Calgary,” said Stewart.
To fully enjoy the experience, however, Stewart had to get over the hurdle of public speaking and constantly being in the public eye.
“Public speaking is something that really intimidated me and was a challenge. I grew up leading a reserved and peaceful lifestyle, but this was very different.”
Being the Stampede Princess culminated with the actual 10-day event, July 5 to 14. Each night, before the chuckwagon races, the three members of the royalty would alternate giving a prepared speech to roughly 35,000 people.
“We were essentially welcoming people to the greatest outdoor show on earth. By the time I did it a second time I had so much fun and really enjoyed it,” said Stewart.
Now that the Stampede is over, Stewart’s time as Calgary Stampede Princess is winding down, and it’s given her a chance to reflect on the experience.
“It was a really busy 10 days and I learned something every day. You’re extremely tired but in the end I was truly grateful for the people I got to meet. It’s cheesy, but there are so many conversations I will cherish forever and I wouldn’t have those experiences if I didn’t dive in like I did,” Stewart said.
Her plan going forward is to come back to the ranch and work on her horsemanship, and see what opportunities come next.
“It’s an experience that will take a lifetime to truly and fully understand and appreciate. It’s been such a huge learning curve for me and it’s very much a blur right now.”
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.