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Cowboys and spectators gather at the annual Calgary Stampede on July 10, 2011. The ten-day event featuring over one million visitors is Canada's largest annual rodeo and is billed as the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth."

Mario Tama/Getty Images/Mario Tama/Getty Images

The cultural showdown dubbed by local media as the "redcoats and cowboys" has ended in a satisfying draw.

Both the Niagara Region and Calgary were designated Friday by Ottawa as a Cultural Capital of Canada for 2012. The Southern Ontario region known for its wine, waterfall and war sites will share the honour – and cash – with the country's energy hub and rodeo king. The dual honours are intended to highlight the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the centennial anniversary of the Calgary Stampede.

But before anyone could jump on their cultural high-horses, those behind Calgary's bid for the title said the Stampede certainly counts as culture, but the designation also provides a platform to prove the city is more than just a 10-day rodeo.

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"We really need to tell the story better about Calgary," Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. "… 2012 is a chance for us to tell our stories ourselves, but it's also a chance for the rest of the country to see what Calgary really is."

Kris Demeanor, a Calgary singer and writer who marked the announcement in a historic theatre by performing a ditty about the ubiquitous Chinese-Western cuisine eateries that dot the Prairies, said culture is more than just fine arts.

"It's nothing but positive," he said of the honour. "It's a fantastic challenge to be called a culture capital, but now what do we do? I'm not interested in this being about giving more money to artists who have forged their careers."

Under the federal program, individuals and groups will be able to apply for up to $1,625,000 earmarked for each region to fund cultural pursuits.

In Calgary, city council already committed to $2-million in funding for celebrations next year that will also mark a century of the public library as well as the Grand and Pumphouse theatres.

The Niagara Region, which had pledged $667,000 to festivities if it won the annual nationwide competition, has more than 20 projects in mind, many of them focusing on the War of 1812 commemorations.

Gary Burroughs, who chaired Niagara's bid, said in a statement the award provides a "significant opportunity to enhance and expand" his region's cultural assets for residents and tourists.

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That's also the aim in Calgary. "Stampede is just one part of an amazingly vibrant and exciting city," said lawyer Michael Casey, president and chairman of the Stampede Board, who hopes the title will draw people from around the globe here all year.

"It's a great impetus to develop a lot of programming," he said, "to showcase Calgary to the rest of the world."

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