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The Calgary Stampede features rodeos, livestock, cooking demonstrations and more to keep Western traditions alive. Writer Cat Allen shows us the highlights.
Text by: Cat Allen
Country: Canada

very July, Canada’s third-largest city, Calgary, becomes home to a spectacle widely known as the “Greatest Show on Earth”, the Calgary Stampede. The 10-day event exhibits an array of North American culture, from chuck-wagon races and horse-riding cowboys, to cabarets and delicious culinary delights from the region. Running annually since 1923, the huge success of this occasion has led to the city being affectionately coined year-round as “Stampede City” and sometimes “CNKscGwowtown”. With attendance reaching 1.2 million people, with more expected each year, the event is a revered occasion, talked about around the globe.

Festival attendees flock from far and wide to the Canadian city. Seventy per cent of the arrivals come from the Calgary region, and the remaining 30 per cent hail from all corners of the world, including other parts of North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia. More visitors travel from Asia and South America. That influx from near and far has led the event to be the country’s highest-grossing festival.

Once inside Stampede City, whether you have a one-day or a 10-day ticket you can expect to see, hear, smell and taste an incredible assortment of delights. Organisers put together an action-packed programme, with daily opportunities to see the world’s top 120 rodeo riders. Each rider aims to display better skills than the others, win, and walk away with the $2 million USD prize.

The event has always attracted world-class riders and some of the best livestock, according to the vision of the Calgary Stampede’s founder, Guy Weadick. The American Wild West performer and promoter arrived in Calgary in 1912 with grandiose plans for the first rodeo, which he named the “Frontier Day Celebration and Championship”. The six-day event was a huge success. Unfortunately, despite its popularity, the economic depression and the arrival of the First World War suspended his plans for 11 years. Despite this original setback, the 100-year anniversary of the Stampede was still celebrated in 2012.

We had the chance to hear a little more about the Calgary Stampede from some friends of TeaTime-Magazine. Dan remembers making the yearly 300-kilometer road trip from his home city of Edmonton to Calgary. “It would feel like such a long journey, but my brothers and I would be so excited as soon as we saw the first sign directing us to the arena”.

Sophie from Vancouver told us that “other than Thanksgiving [which Canadians celebrate on the second Monday in October], it is my favourite day of the Canadian calendar!”

Roger, a Calgary native, remembers the first few years of the annual Stampede. “It has grown rather a lot!” he told us. “But I still can’t miss a rodeo. I come every single year without fail.”

One of the main appeals is the huge array of events on offer. There is something for everyone.

Over the last 91 years, strong traditions have been established, including the morning flag-raising, the 1:15 p.m. face-off between rodeo riders and livestock, demonstrating skill and bravery. Later in the day, the flag is lowered, and in the main grandstand the nightly chuck-wagon races headline the well-attended Evening Show, promising excitement for all.

The Calgary Stampede Showband plays regularly throughout the day in various venues around the arena.

The programme is packed with other activities. Here are some of our favourites out of the hundreds available each day.

Day 1: Tractor Pull

Exactly what it sounds like, this event is a tug-of-war with tractors!

Day 2: Blacksmiths World Championships

A chance to see the world’s best practitioners of this ancient yet still hugely important trade.

Day 3: “Stampede Talent Search Preliminaries

A fantastic competition encouraging young, budding talent to display their skills, competing for a prize.

Day 4: Cultural tour and talk about the culture of the Indian Village.

An opportunity to learn a little more about the heritage and culture of the native Canadians.

Day 5: Ducks and Dog Demo

A look at some of the best of the breeds.

Day 6: Calgary Stampede Showriders

A perfect opportunity to get some photos of the amazing talent attending the Stampede.

Day 7: Cow-milking Demo

Finesse your technique or maybe see how it’s done for the first time.

Day 8: Calgary Co-Op

A live kitchen demonstration promising inspiration and mouth-watering smells.

Day 9: Tipi Raising Contest

How fast can you build a tipi? Watch as the competing contestants do it much faster.

Day 10: First Nations Youth Dance

A chance to celebrate First Nations heritage through dance, music and song

Given the number of events during the Stampede, it is extremely important to prepare yourself for very long and action-packed days with another tradition: pancakes. Pancakes are arguably one of the main attractions of the July event. The breakfast tradition started in the very first year with a man named Jack Morton, who used the back of his chuck wagon to serve free pancakes to his friends, family, and visitors. To this day it is possible to feast on free, delicious pancakes offered by local cafes, restaurants, malls, and community centres.

The Calgary Stampede is a strong contender for greatest show on Earth. The sheer variety and world-class pedigree of the riders and breeds of horses that are on display certainly make Calgary the place to be in July. Best to go with a hunger for pancakes and be ready to be amazed, which is just what Guy Weadick intended, all those years ago.

Elizabeth II, Queen of England, officially opened the 1973 Calgary Stampede

The very first show generated $120,000 in economic benefit, which, especially in those days, made it a great success!

An estimated 200,000 free pancake breakfasts are given out during the 10-day event.

Stampede Park, where the show is hosted, features a saddleshaped stadium.

The main grandstand boasts 16,000 seats.

The worst accident in Stampede history occurred in 2005 when nine horses plunged into one of the city’s rivers after becoming frightened during the annual ride from Stampede City into Calgary. Since then, organizers have had to improve safety precautions.

The 120 rodeo riders compete in pools. The finalists in each of these pools go head to head on what is known as Wild Card Saturday. The two finalists then continue on to Sunday’s final, where the winner is awarded more than $2 million US.

The Big Four Building, one of the integral parts of the arena, is named after the “Big Four” businessmen, whose funding enabled the Stampede to take place in the very first years.

From 1923 to 1967 the Stampede retained the original format of a six-day show and became a 10-day event in 1968.

Daily tickets for the Stampede, including entrance to the Evening Show, start at $40 and include park admission.


Canada Celebrates Cowboy Culture

The Calgary Stampede happens every July in Canada’s third-largest city, Calgary. It is a 10-day event that highlights different aspects of North American culture including chuck-wagon races, horse-riding cowboys, cabarets and delicious culinary delights.

The event started in 1923 and takes place annually. Over 1.2 million people attend this grand event and attendance is growing every year with people coming from all corners of the world.

The event attracts world-class riders who show off their skills as they compete for a $2 million USD prize. There are many traditions at the festival including a morning flag-raising and a face-off between rodeo riders and livestock.

Later in the day, the flag is lowered and in the main grandstand there are nightly chuck-wagon races during the Evening Show.

Some of the events you can experience are: a tractor pull, a kind of tug-of-war with tractors; a blacksmith world championship; and a cow-milking demo, among others. Because there are many events at the Stampede, you should prepare yourself for very long and action-packed days with another tradition: pancakes.

This tradition started the first year with a man named Jack Morton, who served free pancakes to his friends, family, and visitors. Nowadays, local cafes, restaurants, malls, and community centres offer free pancakes to the public.



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Canada celebrates cowboy culture



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