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Family donates land for new Raymond rodeo grounds

Posted on May 4, 2023 by admin
Southern Alberta Newspapers Photo by Delon Shurtz DONATION: Ron Heggie stands next to the infield and grandstand at the Raymond rodeo grounds. The lifelong Raymondite, along with wife Joanne and family, is giving back to their community by donating land for a new rodeo grounds.

By Al Beeber

Southern Alberta Newspapers

Ron Heggie remembers watching his father and other volunteers build the grandstand at the Raymond Stampede in 1945.
The Stampede has always been a part of Heggie’s life as it has been for many generations of residents in Raymond.

Now the lifelong Raymondite, along with wife Joanne and family, is giving back to their community by donating land for a new rodeo grounds.

This will be the last year for the Stampede at its storied home with the land soon to be used for construction of a new high school.

With more space needed as the community grows, the junior high school will soon be utilizing the school where decades of students have attended classes, watched basketball and sat on stage during Grade 12 graduation ceremonies.

Thanks to Heggie and his family, the Stampede will continue on with the donation of 14 acres of land at the northeast corner of town.

The Stampede was first staged in 1902 under the direction of town founder Raymond Knight who donated the land for the rodeo.

The present grandstand is considered to be the oldest continuously used in the history of the sport.

The new location for the rodeo will east of Highway 845 between Railway Avenue and 500N.

Stampede president Robert Heggie – nephew of Ron Heggie and a longtime rodeo cowboy himself – said this week his organization is thrilled with the announcement and that the show will go on next year at the new site.

“They want the old place to put the new high school on,” said Ron Heggie last month, adding “they didn’t have any land to put the rodeo grounds on.”

Heggie had 40 acres of land he’d purchased a few years ago and he was approached awhile ago about selling a piece of it to put the rodeo on.

He wasn’t interested in selling at the time but talks got more serious with the Stampede organization having nowhere else to go.

“I talked to my family and whatnot and said ‘well, let’s donate some land’ so we donated 14 acres to them,” said Heggie.

“The rodeo has been part of my life all my life. And I didn’t want to see that end,” said Heggie.

The rodeo is a massive attraction in Raymond on July 1 which is also the town’s birthday as well as Canada’s. On that day, visitors will see Canadian flags flying in front of dozens if not hundreds of homes as residents line up in droves to watch the annual July 1 parade.

Several stipulations came with the donation including that the land can never be used for anything except rodeo or other recreation.

“If the rodeo some day fails, they can put ball diamonds on it, they can put anything recreational that will benefit the community,” added the 84-year-old Heggie.

“As a seven-year-old, I remember watching my dad and all the other fellows” build the grandstand which is a huge visual element of the town.

Heggie fondly recalls playing wood tag at the rodeo grounds for hours with his friends.

“It was part of our life and I didn’t want to see it end.”

Heggie was never much of an active rodeo cowboy, instead calling himself “an avid spectator.”

Seating for spectators will have to be built at the new location because the existing grandstand can’t be moved. Instead it will be dismantled shortly after this year’s Stampede ends.

“It’s so open and whatnot. The base of it is all kind of rotted away, things like that. So they’d probably pick it up and it would just crumble,” said Heggie.

Raymond, Heggie said, “is a good place to grow up in and a good place to raise your kids in.”

Robert Heggie said the donation of land is huge for the Stampede.

“It’s huge to be able to keep it going. We were at a dead-end road until Ron came along,” he said.

Over the past 25 years, the present rodeo arena has been repaired extensively with the wood chutes and other areas replaced. But the grandstand has remained the same, he said, with the exception of the roof which was replaced in the 1990s after it blew off.

“That’s the part of history that will be hard to see come down,” said Robert of the grandstand.

The location will be good for the Stampede, he said.

Heggie expects the Stampede will have a strong turnout this year with people wanting to sit in the grandstand for one last time.

“It’s part of history. It was there before a lot of other stuff in town.”

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