Western Showcase Committee members bring 50 combined years to the table

Every year the Calgary Stampede provides lasting memories to everyone that passes through the gates and into Stampede Park.

Whether it’s spending the day on the Midway eating mini donuts, waiting in line for hours to get into Nashville North, admiring the artwork in the Western Showcase or even meeting a real cowboy or cowgirl for the first time; we all have our own memories of the greatest outdoor show on earth.

But what often goes unnoticed are the hours of work that the more than 2,300 volunteers, making up 47 committees, willingly give up to make those memories happen.

“It’s like having a full-time job at certain points of the year, ” said Pat Guillemaud, head of the Grade 12 art scholarship, which is part of the Western Art Auction.

Guillemaud, along with Marjie Fenton and Anne Platz have been volunteering or working at the Calgary Stampede for over 50 years combined between the three of them. While working on the Western Showcase Committee, the group estimates each of them volunteer an average of 40 hours a week during May and June.

Guillemaud’s role with the committee has been to organize and award the Western Art Grade 12 scholarships, which are arranged into two categories: Calgary schools and rural schools.

The winners of this year’s top prizes of a $2,000 scholarship were Michelle Ku of Sir Winston Churchill Senior High School and Nicole Hudye of Springbank Community School.

“Seeing the kids succeed and go on to use their scholarship is the biggest reward I get for the work I do,” said Guillemaud.

Marjie Fenton has also volunteered with the Western Showcase committee and may be the most versatile volunteer within the walls of Stampede Park.

Left to right: Marjie Fenton, Pat Guillemand, and Anne Platz have volunteered or worked at the Calgary Stampede for more than 50 years combined. At times the trio feels like they are working a full-time job.

Photo by Ian EsplenFenton describes her current position as “multi-tasker.” She handles everything from the pins and the art auction packages, which are made up of gate passes, auction paddles, tickets and a catalogue of all the artwork to scheduling the volunteers.

“During a 24-hour period, I can account for every hour and the whereabouts of every volunteer on the committee,” said Fenton about the tasks ahead of her on Thursday, July 11, the day of the art auction.

Aside from watching her friends compete in the Stampede Rodeo riding broncos in her younger days, Fenton’s favourite Stampede memory came a few years back when she was a given a Spur Award by a fellow volunteer for staying well after her shift had ended to give a couple from Scotland a tour of all the art exhibits.

“I was supposed to be off at 3:00 p.m. and I don’t think we ended until about 5:30 p.m. or so because we were having such a good time seeing everything, talking with the artists and learning about the artwork,” said Fenton

And with such a time commitment, one may think that the volunteers would get tired of being at the Calgary Stampede, year after year. But Anne Platz actually feels the opposite.

“I don’t ever get tired of coming to the Stampede. I love being part of it and that’s why I volunteer every year,” said Platz, who has volunteered with nearly every area that the Western Showcase committee oversees – from the arts and crafts show to serving as the chairperson for the “Window of the West” stage.

But Platz’s passion for the Stampede runs in the family.

While Platz was born and raised in Calgary, she had a late uncle from Great Britain who was at the first Stampede in 1912. While there, he purchased some postcards by the legendary Stampede photographer Marcus “Doc” Marcell.

Before his passing, Platz’s uncle gave them to her mother and the post cards found their way down to Anne.

About 10 years ago the Stampede archives were looking for postcards and Platz graciously donated her postcards to the archives.

One might argue that the Western Showcase would not run as smoothly without these three lovely ladies lending hours of their time.

When asked what the Stampede would be like without the Western Showcase, they unanimously agreed that it would be pretty boring with only the rodeo, chuckwagons and the Midway.

For more information on the Western Showcase or to purchase an art auction package visit westernshowcase.com

iesplen@cjournal.ca