CALGARY - The Calgary Stampede is marking its 100th birthday this year and already it's gotten one humdinger of a present -- more than 3,000 hectares of a historic Alberta ranch, valued at $11 million.
Wealthy oilman Bill Siebens is turning a portion of his 130-year-old OH property over to the Stampede Foundation, along with the ranch’s 1885 ranch house, the old cookhouse and a replica of a North West Mounted Police cabin.
The foundation is working to come up with a management plan for the ranch with an eye to preserving and promoting western heritage and values.
“Alberta has been my home for 54 years," said Siebens, founder of Siebens Oil and Gas Ltd. and a member of the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame.
"I made my career in the oil business, raised my family here and have a deep attachment and love for the Foothills country west of Calgary."
The philanthropist, who modestly remarked that "things turned out well for me," said he wanted to give a gift to the Stampede in part because he has attended 54 of the annual rodeos.
"This is my gift to the people of Alberta. The Stampede is way more than 10 days of rodeo, corporate parties and fireworks. It is an important link to Alberta’s past — the ranchers, the homesteaders, the cowboys and the Aboriginal people.
"This land will give Albertans a big, beautiful connection to their past — a connection that will endure for many future generations."
Siebens said he has operated the ranch for the last 33 years, and spends time there riding with his children and grandchildren, fishing and enjoying the scenery.
"I want people from all walks of life to be able to bring their kids out here to see a working ranch with working cowboys and horses and cows and all that,” said Siebens.
At a news conference Tuesday morning at Calgary’s Stampede Park, Siebens also handed over the OH branding irons, thereby giving the Stampede Foundation the rights to the OH brand - one of the oldest brands that has been continuously registered and used in Western Canada.
“The OH Ranch is an authentic, living embodiment of Western Canada’s ranching heritage,” said Steve Allan, vice-chairman of the Stampede Foundation.
"We are truly grateful to Bill and his family for their gift of this historic ranching property.”