My First Calgary Stampede Experience!

Hello friends!  Every July, the city’s rough-and-ready cow town image is thrust to the forefront when a fever known as Stampede hits town.  For 10 days, Calgarians let their hair down, business leaders don cowboy boots, and half the town walks around in too-tight denims (or too-short skirts).  The Stampede is many things to many people, but to all, it is certainly a celebration of the city’s past – of endless sunny days when life was broncos, bulls, and steers, of cowboys riding through the streets and saloons on every corner.  <– At least, that’s my vision of days past!  But it’s not just of days past…it’s of the cow town image Calgarians cherish and the frontier image that visitors expect!  On downtown streets, everyone is your neighbor; pancakes are served free of charge around the city; citizens shout “Yahoo!” for no particular reason; and there’s drinking and dancing ’til dawn every night.  And at the center of the action is Stampede Park, which hosts the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth!”  The gigantic midway takes at least a day to get around.  A staggering number of attractions, displays, and free entertainment cost only the price of gate admission; and a glittering grandstand show, complete with fireworks, ends each day’s shenanigans.

Have I convinced you, yet, to join us next year?!


I wrote an overview post HERE, but the Stampede officially kicks-off Friday morning with a spectacular parade through the streets of downtown Calgary.


“That pounding of hooves and trembling of the ground can mean only one thing; the world’s premier chuckwagon event, the GMC Rangeland Derby, has begun!”  (via: Calgary Stampede)  The Rangeland Derby chuck wagon races feature nine heats each evening starting at 7:45 pm.  At the end of the week, the top four drivers from the preliminary rounds compete in a dash-for-cash final!

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We had a company dinner Friday evening before the races, so the four of us hopped on the C-Train to the fairgrounds at around 5 pm.  As we were chowing down on some good grilled food, the hubby was called up to the stage to be a part of the company “White Hat Ceremony” – where new leaders have to recite a Calgary oath, raise their hat, yell YAHOO!, and become an official “Calgarian.”  After dinner we headed up to the stands to watch the Chuckwagon Races.  It was our first time…and to be honest…we weren’t exactly sure what the heck was going on after the first round.  We opened up our event guide and discovered that even though the actual racing may look a little wild and scattered, it’s really a team effort between the horses, drivers and outriders.  Judges look for any one of a couple dozen infractions including knocking over barrels, an outrider being late or failing to finish the race, or wagon interference.  Who knew?!

Shortly after the chuckwagons, the Grandstand Show began – a 75 minute high-tech entertainment show.  This year’s production was called “Barnburner” and ended with a spectacular fireworks display!  We ended up walked the 1.2 miles back to the Condo, stopping briefly for an awesome late-night burger at Clive Burger.



On Saturday, the four of us generously slept in, ate a hearty breakfast while discussing the full week of activities behind us, and then grabbed a cab at noon to head back to the stampede grounds.  Two days in a row, you ask?  Why yes, because at 1:15 PM, the RODEO was taking place!  And it was semi-finals day!!!  The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) kicked off the day with a musical ride, and I must admit, it was pretty neat to see so many horses and riders in perfect formation!

In case this is your first rodeo (hardy-har-har!), the rodeo is made up of six traditional events, three of which are judged on points (time and performance), and three of which are timed:

  1. Bareback Riding
  2. Saddle Bronc Riding
  3. Calf Roping
  4. Steer Wrestling
  5. Barrel Racing
  6. Bull Riding

Here are three short videos I took: the first one is of a cowboy getting bucked off; the second is of a cowboy BARELY making the 8 second mark; and the third is of one cowboy who stayed the full 8 seconds – and then some!  Enjoy!!!



We took a break during the Steer Wrestling – basically because I don’t think any of us had the heart to watch it – but it was timed perfectly for a much-needed break due to the insane heat and direct sun.  We all downed some fresh-squeezed lemonade and chowed down on mini-donuts.  Our favorite parts of the rodeo were the bareback riding and the bull riding!!!  At the end of the competition, the show ends with “Wild Pony Riding” – which is basically where young kids dirt-ski behind ponies.  It was so fun to watch the little kids try to hop onto a pony!!!


{ FOOD }

After the rodeo, we walked around the grounds to check out the Agrium: Cows, Chickens, and Pigs, oh my!  We then realized that our bellies were hungry…so we strolled around the fair grounds in search of the perfect dinner.  I had read online that there were lots of unique foods this year (bacon wrapped hot dogs, deep-fried donut bacon cheeseburgers, poutine burger, and Scorpion Pizza!), but we wound up back to where we started, and ate at the ever-fabulous “Reel Mac and Cheese’ food truck!!!  (Remember my first experience on Canada Day? YUM!)  We went back into the Agrium to watch the cow judging – I don’t know the technical term here, sorry – and it was as exciting as it sounds.  It wasn’t really our cup of tea, and we weren’t really sure how they were judging these massive creatures…but it was nice to sit in the air-conditioned space.  For dessert, we went on the hunt for some awesomely deep-fried treats!  We finally found the stand, and waited in line for a good 15 minutes – which we ended up needing in order to figure out who was getting what!!!  The hubby decided on the sampler: Reese’s, 2 Oreo’s and 2 Cookie Dough; while I got the Snicker’s.  He gave me the Oreo’s and kept the cookie dough, and we split the snickers and Reese’s.  Honestly, the Snicker’s and Reese’s were a bit messy…with all the chocolate and stuff melted together, but the Oreo’s were AMAZING!  He could only eat one of the cookie dough bites, as they were the size of a small fist!!!  We enjoyed our dessert while watching the horse pulls, and finally decided around 9 pm that it was about time we headed home for the evening.  Our friends had an early flight back to Louisiana…so we wanted to make sure they could wind down and get some shut-eye.  Overall – it was a fabulous Stampede weekend…and we were very lucky to have some friends to share in the experience with us!






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