I’ve always loved rodeos, and the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada was on my bucket list for years. I finally dusted off my cowboy boots and joined daredevils, horse enthusiasts, music lovers, families, and wannabe cowboys, at the western extravaganza. Spanning ten days in July, the Stampede draws over a million visitors from around the world. Credit: Chris Bolin Calgary Stampede
Rodeo Fever at the Calgary Stampede One of the best thrills was being part of a crowd ramped up on adrenaline watching bronco busters, bull riders, steer wrestlers, women’s barrel racing, tie-down roping, horse relays and the world’s top chuckwagon races. The 10-day event offers a combined $2 million in prize money. Looking over a sea of cowboy hats, I watched a Texan stay on his bucking horse for eight seconds to win $100,000 in the bareback riding. The crowd went wild with whistles and applause. The rodeo is capped off with the nightly Grandstand Show and fireworks finale that light up the sky.
The best of bareback riding. The bucking horses from the Calgary Stampede Ranch are world-renowned for their performance as professional rodeos across North American. The best performers in the world come to win. This daredevil stayed on the horse for 8 seconds. Credit: Shane Kuhn
Cowboy Couture The entire city of Calgary gets into the Stampede mood with free pancake breakfasts, parades, barbecues and endless parties. Many visitors, (like me), don our western duds to look the part with denim jeans, plaid shirts, fancy boots and cowboy hats. But the locals are the true fashion stars. Their full western regalia include leather vests, native jewelry, big belt buckles, bolo ties, red bandana neckerchiefs and white Stetson hats.
The Music Scene Cheryl Crow in concert. The Calgary Stampede is one of Canada’s largest music festivals with five stages and over 300 performers. One warm evening I joined a packed crowd at the outdoor stage to hear nine-time Grammy Award, Cheryl Crow. Shoulder to shoulder with other fans, we clapped or sang along to my favorite Cheryl Crow song All I Wanna Do (is have fun). Nashville North gives everyone a chance to kick up their heels dancing to live country music every night of the festival. hats and boots fellas Photo Credit: Marybeth Bond
Kids Take the Stage at The Grandstand Show. Young Canadians Performing School of the Arts includes 113 performers, 7-19 years old who sing and dance, adding raw energy, fantasy and talent to the nightly show. They train all year in preparation for the 10 days of performances. This year was the 50th anniversary of the Young Canadians participating in the Grandstand Show. Photo Credit: Tye Carson Credit: Tye Carson
From the first Calgary Stampede 106 years ago, the First Nation has played a major role in the rodeo and performances. Credit: Tye Carson
Marybeth with the Jack Daniels executives after the Official Jack Daniel’s Stampede Dinner at Modern Steak. The mouth-watering Alberta beef we devoured was aged 50, 150 and 200 days and cured with Jack Daniel’s whisky. A creative Jack Daniel’s cocktail accompanied each coarse.
Panda Breakfast at an Amazing Zoo
A trip to The Calgary Zoo is a must for visitors of any age. At the “Panda Breakfast” I chowed-down on a delicious buffet while learning panda facts, and then entered the zoo before opening hours, avoiding the lines, to watch the four pandas when they were alert, active and eating their own breakfasts. In addition to the pandas, standouts were the superb botanical garden, active butterfly house, grizzly bears and Madagascan lemurs.
Marybeth with the Rodeo Princess whose mother was also a rodeo princess a few decades ago. What an honor. Like mother, like daughter..Photo Credits: Marybeth Bond @gutsytraveler
The Calgary Stampede is billed as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, and who am I to argue? I’ve packed away my cowboy hat and boots for now, but rodeo fever is infectious and this cowgirl cannot wait for next year’s roundup.
My cowboy clothes are packed away for another year.
Marybeth Bond @gutsytraveler
NEXT YEAR: July 5-14, 2019. www.calgarystampede.com
For Art Lovers and History Buffs
The Glenbow Museum in downtown Calgary is a “must visit” for a history buffs and art aficionados. One of the largest museums in Western Canada, it boasts over a million objects, artworks and photographs. The thoughtful displays about the First Nation people across Canada is outstanding.