What can you say about the Stampede except "Yeehaw!" It’s ten days of bulls, broncs, hats and boots, rides and games, and cultural activities that all add up to one thing: one heck of a good time. You don’t have to be a cowpoke to appreciate all the things to see and do here. The entire city of Calgary gets in on the fun, and western wear is the uniform of the day.
Out-of-towners like us can take the C-train all the way to Stampede Park, eliminating the need for navigating Calgary’s streets (and all those speed/red light cameras!) as well as saving a bundle on parking fees. Once there, just follow the herd through the gates and the adventure is on! Tickets are available at the gate or in advance through Ticketmaster. We found that having tickets in hand saved us some time and got us better seats at the grandstand.
This is the county fair smack in the middle of a large, modern city. The midway games, the rides, the corndogs, and the 4-H livestock competitions are all there. You can stroll for hours, looking over the animals, watching the competitions, and eating yourself into oblivion and only scratch the surface. There are galleries of Canadian art, educational displays, and demos on everything from crop science to sheep shearing, and hats, hats, hats. If you’re not properly decked out upon arrival, you will be when you leave. Western wear abounds, as well as souvenirs of every description. This year even featured a new event for the Stampede – a medieval joust!
Of course, the main event that everyone must see is the rodeo. We had a great time sitting up in the grandstand with an ice cold beer, watching the cowboys do their thing. For those who have not been to a rodeo before, the announcers will explain it all. We also spent an afternoon watching the chuckwagon races, a frontier-era must for any western aficionado. It was great!
Do be aware that food and beverages inside Stampede Park can be fairly expensive. If you are looking for a good, sit-down meal, you’d best eat before you go. While the variety is extensive, it is all fair food, so bring your corndog and burger appetite. Also, surprisingly, you’re not gettin’ any Canadian beer in there. Budweiser, one of the major sponsors, has dibs on the beer contract. Your sweet tooth will rejoice amidst the plethora of fried and frozen confections, though. Grab one in the heat of the day and head into the Saddledome to watch the stock dog trials or team roping competitions. There might not be any Calgary Flames ice on the rink, but the arena is still a climate-controlled refuge from the heat of the summer day.
Most importantly, you’ve got to spend all day (or preferably, more than one) to really get a feel for what the Stampede is all about. So put on your hat and point yer boots straight into the fun!