When putting together ILEA Live’s opening event, we knew we had to pull out all the stops. An ILEA Stampede was the ultimate welcome to Calgary for visitors, and a fresh and surprising kickoff for locals. The event took place at Stampede Park just a month after the annual 10-day Calgary Stampede, and we were repurposing both the grounds and many of Stampede’s props and structures. As the event was completely outdoors, all of the necessary infrastructure like electrical and plumbing needed to be brought in. We filled the grounds with antique treasures from throughout Stampede’s long history, right from the actual vintage truck of Guy Weadick, who founded Calgary Stampede in 1912, to quirky float props from the early 2000s. We set up midway-style food huts, but instead of corn dogs and cotton candy, Calgary Stampede’s culinary team treated guests to high-end local creations like wagyu beef bannock sliders and brick-pressed caprese grilled cheese sandwiches. As guests mingled and explored, local entertainers provided the perfect soundtrack both onstage and in pop-up performances around the space. Décor from our own inventory was intermingled with pieces from Stampede in shaded seating areas and inside a large tent set up in case of inclement weather (which also offered phone-charging stations). Several totally custom activations really took this event to the next level. In place of the common photobooth, we created the incredible Ultimate Selfie Station. This signature activation allowed guests to be harnessed into a 135-foot boom and lifted into the sky for a jaw-dropping view of the Calgary skyline – and the selfie to beat all selfies. Considering the permits, safety planning, and sheer amount of space needed, pulling this off was no small feat. The LETHRBAR station was a pillar of the experience that lived on throughout the ILEA Live conference, designed to create a sense of community and togetherness. During opening night, guests placed a leather marker (hammered with their initials) on the location of their home on a large map. Each guest also received a custom stamped leather bracelet and signature ILEA Live token in the shape of a guitar pick. After dark, a large brass band played the final set of the night. At the start of their closing song, we handed out and lit sparklers for all 350 guests in a matter of minutes, as the band start a parade toward the stage area. The incredible procession of sparklers got all guests to the right place at the right time for our big finale – a beautiful fireworks display.
An ILEA Stampede was the perfect showcase of Calgary’s innovative spirit, western culture, and hometown pride. The outdoor venue allowed guests to kick off their visit while literally surrounded by the city. We created the ultimate Stampede experience that celebrated the history of Stampede and its enormous impact on our city, showcased amazing local talent in food and entertainment, captured the heart and energy of Calgary, and featured innovative and slightly death-defying activations that guests would be talking about long afterward.
Photography: Leblond Studio