Experience The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth
Even if you’re not a cowboy or cowgirl, I dare you not to have fun at the stampede and amazing tourist destination. If Garth’s voice isn’t blaring on some loudspeaker, then it surely is Keith or Shania, and even if you don’t know how to two-step, or are too shy to line-dance, your feet will twitch despite yourself.
The event starts with the annual parade on the first Friday in July, and it’s the first opportunity to do some people-watching in Calgary’s downtown core. Diverse ethnic groups, locals, and famous dignitaries will parade past the crowd on gorgeous horses, on festive floats, and on foot. All are proud to represent this convergence of Calgarians and tourists and kick start ten days worth of incredible courage and camaraderie seldom witnessed elsewhere.
It’s best to wear boots, a hat, a bandana, a country-themed shirt, and a complimentary smile. Nothing fancy, Ma’am! But there’s an electric feeling that is infectious. And while the famous rodeo and chuckwagon races are the drawing card, they aren't the only aces in the deck.
After the parade, it’s time for Sneak-a-Peek, which translates into a bargain entrance fee, to explore the Stampede Grounds on opening night. Grab a map at the entrance or do your research before coming. There’s so much to see.
Stampede is a bustling city of buildings and activities. Notable highlights are the Indian Village Pavillion with its First Nation of Treaty 7 cultural displays. A great way to get in touch with Canada’s vital Native traditions. Then explore agricultural competitions, concerts, showbands, something for everyone’s taste at the recognizable Scotiabank Saddledome. At Nashville North, anyone can dance to live music, make sure your boots are comfortable. Head to Big Four and experience the international pavilions, sample food markets, craft beers, and Bollywood are all well represented. If you wear out your dancing boots, there are many opportunities to update your wardrobe.
If, as night falls, you’re not exhausted, head to the Coca Cola stage and watch a lineup of music stars. Stampede is not just about Country and Western music; there’s Hip Hop, Blues, Rock, Alternative, and Pop.
Don’t forget the Midway, fun for adults and children, and buy a bundle of raffle tickets to the show homes, trucks, and campers. Some lucky person will win; it could be you.
Foremost, the stampede exemplifies the cultural traditions of western heritage. Its legendary rodeo is a testament that the best in the world compete for the 2 million dollar purse. More importantly, they also compete in the spirit of sportsmanship, character, and skill that typify the roots of the Calgary Stampede. Only the best are honored with the Guy Weadick trophy, an iconic symbol of the man who founded the event over a hundred years ago.
For many, the draw is, undoubtedly, the spectacular rodeo or the thrilling chuckwagon races held at the Grandstand, followed nightly with a showstopping fireworks display. Either way, the scent of horse sweat, cowboy adrenaline, leather, and ambiance is in the air.
Admission tickets to the park, including the rodeo, start at a reasonable CAD 40.00 and with some savvy research, a person can enjoy many free events. And lastly, there are mouthwatering choices to indulge in, always served with a smile, and prepared from an international menu. Corn dogs, sugar sprinkled mini donuts, tender steak, vegan dogs, Ramen dogs, bratwurst, poutine, fried crickets, Schnitzel, arepas, shrimp, and octopus, anything friable, pizza, cotton candy, and the iconic, though not to everyone's taste, prairie oysters. Each year new morsels of delight or fright are added to the menu. And for those not familiar with western hospitality, there are numerous ‘free’ pancake breakfasts held throughout the city for the duration.
The Calgary Stampede is an annual event held in a cosmopolitan city, but it's more than that. It's a feeling that can't be replicated elsewhere, and the generosity of spirit magically transform everyone. And when you get a moment, thank the many volunteers and staff who make it happen.
Oh! Two things. Book your accommodations early, and when the show ends, take a drive to Banff to experience another kind of beauty. You won't be sorry.
Painting Courtesy of Marlo A. Ackerblade
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This content was written by Monika R. Martyn. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Monika R. Martyn for details.