Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Calgary Stampede 101

on July 3, 2013

If you live in Alberta, or if you’ve been watching the news for Alberta, or if you’ve read my blog before, you will know that weCalgary Stampede just had a TERRIBLE disastrous flood here in Calgary (and many other places in Southern Alberta).  The area around the Calgary Stampede Grounds was hard hit, and we thought that the Stampede was going to be a No-Go. At least, on the first couple of days.
Gavin Young, Calgary Herald's photo

But then, the sun came out, and the water started to recede, and the Mayor and the City officials said, “Nope- the Show must go on”..  Not only is it good financially for the City, but it’s also great for morale.

My friend, Kris's, photoAnd now, look at us! Stampede Sneak-a-peak is set for tomorrow night! ($8, July 4, 5pm to midnight).  And the streets that were just flooded a few weeks ago are now hosting the Parade on Friday!

And why? Because, as the Calgary Stampede facebook page says: “The spirit of this city cannot be washed away. As floodwaters recede, community spirit continues to run high. The power of people is rebuilding this community – along with Stampede Park.”  The statement ends with: “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth WILL go on.”

And, despite the warning, “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys” (that’s Waylon Jenning’s and Willie Nelson’s advice to the general populace), off we rush to the Stampede!

They say the reasons are “They’ll never stay home and they’re always alone…Lonestar belt buckles and old faded Levis”…

But, if you grew up in Montana (or another other cowboy country – Alberta, Wyoming, etc), OR if you grew up in the city somewhere but happened to watch Electric Horseman, with a young(er) Robert Redford (sigh), then that advice is probably ignored…or, at least, maybe thatThese boots were made for walkin' cowboy tipping his hat can give your heart a little flutter… or, if cowboys aren’t your thing, what about Daisy Duke (either the original or the Jessica Simpson version) – you have to admit – there’s something about faded jeans and cowboy boots…(could maybe replace that lyric about belt buckles with boots… that’d be more appropriate for me.)

Despite my love for jeans and boots, and despite the fact that I grew up in Montana, and despite the fact that I had a TREMENDOUS crush on a certain cowboy when I was 12-15 (if any of you know or remember who that is, shhhhhhhh),  I didn’t own a pair of boots until I moved to Calgary and was preparing to go to my first Stampede… now I have a good collection…
The Chinese dragonThe butterflies, maybe

Calgary is (technically) a cowboy town, stemming back to “Once upon a time”, in the late (it seems) 1800’s.  In fact, one of its nicknames (which some people hate and some love) is “Cowtown.”  To celebrate that, there is a “parade” of Cow sculptures (all individually painted by various local artists), called Udderly Art,  now on display at The Legacy Pasture, in the +15 walkway, north side of 9th Avenue, between 5th and 6th Street, S.W.

I think some don’t like it because it makes the town sound…well, like a “town”, and perhaps a town reeking of cow manure and agriculture…

CowgirlNot everyone in town is a Cowboy/girl, but during Stampede everyone does find SOMETHING Stampede-y to wear.  Even in the corporate downtown, suits and ties are replaced with jeans & boots.

It’s a great time to be a local “sightseer”… sigh.

Except the traffic.  And the dust.  And the tourists going the wrong way on a one way (almost all the streets downtown are “one-ways”.)

To make up for it, though, there is the jeans and boots (have I mentioned that already?), and free breakfasts of pancakes and sausages and coffee, and barbeques of burgers and pulled-pork sandwiches, all over theThe Gentleman city!

People are less rushed – more “moseying” around, tipping their hats, waiting patiently in lines, hooting it up here and there!

And then, there’s the Stampede itself!

This year’s Stampede is July 5-14, and is the 101st year!  Before The Flood, I hadn’t decided if I was going yet or not – I used to go at least once a year, and then, one2013 Fees year, I went every day… and wore myself out.  But NOW! I’ll definitely be there!  (In fact, really great friends just gave us their tickets to the Grandstand Show, which I’ve never actually seen… Too bad they had to give them up, but yay for us! THANK YOU!)

The Stampede is more than just a rodeo and agriculture fair.  It IS the biggest outdoor show on the planet – last year’s attendance was over 1.4 million…GOODNESS!) – it also includes a LOT of music venues, beer gardens, Mid-way rides, fair-food (you have GOT to have “Those Little Donuts”), art shows, an Indian Village and the Hoop Dances…oh! and the Chuckwagon Races & Grandstand Show.  You can go year after year and never go to the actual rodeo.

It’s not always just country music at the Stampede either – this year, along with the Dixie Chicks and Tim McGraw, is KISS…. Ummmm… THAT SHOCKS ME!! How about that!  (****I don’t want to delete this paragraph, just in case things change, but I just read that all of the concerts that were being held within the Saddledome have had to be cancelled, due to the flooding 😦  That’s so terrible. Not surprising. But very sad… However, Google that – maybe they’ll find another venue, or as the days go by, they’ll be able to go on as scheduled.****)

The DancersMy favorite thing to watch is the aforementioned Hoop Dancing in the Indian Village. (Not sure about the “politically correctness” of this name, but that’s what it’s called.)  The website says it’s been a part of the Stampede since the Stampede started, in 1912. “It is a great way for visitors to experience the First Nations traditions and culture first hand”.

Another highlight is the Parade. It will be on Friday, the 5th of July … Apparently, you can reserve a nice seat for the parade OR you can really appreciate the whole Stampede experience and show up with everyone else, 3 hours before the parade starts, and elbow your way to the front. (Last year, an estimated 300,000 showed up to watch the parade.)  I’ve only gone once, because I don’t want to be down at my spot at 7am, every year.
First Nations 1First Nations 2
First Nations - PeiganThis year’s Parade Marshall is Canadian Astronaut (the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space), Chris Hadfield.

Scattered around town are various … Stampede parties – here and there – at “saloons”! Now, I’m not saying I recommend these places, but two top country/cowboy places people go are Cowboys and Ranchmans (… go to their websites and check out this year’s Stampede line-up!)

By the way, there’s a Calgary Stampede app for your cell phone – it includes GPS, so you can navigate the Park… so you won’t miss a thing.

Oh goodness – so, I went to check out the app, and I found a second app that tells you where to find all the free StampedeThe Tinkers Pancake Breakfasts in the city.  The app is still set for 2012 (probably too soon for the upcoming 2013 Breakfast season), but last year, there were over 190 Breakfasts to choose from!!

Don’t forget to stay awake for the nightly fireworks show over the Stampede Grounds (following the Grandstand show)!

That’s Stampede 101.  Come on down and enjoy the show!

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