Calgary Stampede – This Annual Rodeo is a Western Show on Steroids…One of a Kind!
Head to the Calgary Stampede for a festival that’s out of this world! The Calgary Stampede combines all things great about the rodeos, national exhibitions, parades, competitions, chuckwagon races and so much more.
What IS the Calgary Stampede?
The Calgary Stampede is ten days of everything and anything you could possible want in a western show. The stampede calls itself “The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth” and this certainly holds true as each event usually bring in a total of 1.2 million attendees. What’s so impressive and unique about the Stampede is the fact that, it is ten straight days of wild, crazy western-themed entertainment. The best part of the stampede is that everyone is in on the fun! From the thousands of volunteers to the big name sponsors, everyone is wild about the west!
Imagine one endless country fair and the world’s largest rodeo. That is what the Calgary stampede is TIMES TEN. The Calgary Stampede Festival is not to be confused with the Stampede Park—a park in Calgary that features rides, food, and rodeo antics. The Calgary Stampede Festival is the annual July showdown of all things western. Country music, line dancing, bull riding—the stampede has it all.
When planning to experience all that the Calgary Stampede has to offer, things can get a little confusing so it’s helpful to take a closer look at all the events involved at the festival.
The World’s Richest Tournament Style Rodeo
An audience favorite is the rodeo at the Calgary Stampede. Within the rodeo are the main events: bareback, steer wrestling, barrel racing, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding and bull riding. With $2 million dollars in prizes on the line, these rodeo riders are in it to win it. Think these events sound cool but not sure what they are? Look no further for a quick rundown on stampede vocab.
Bareback and Steer Wrestling
The cowboy must ride the bucking horse, one-handed, for at least 8 seconds. In another timed event, cowboys begin waiting behind a rope as the steer is released on his cue getting a head start 12 feet ahead. The cowboy begins the chase, dismounts and grabs the calf by the horns. The time is taken when the calf has been rolled on the ground with its legs up.
Barrel racing involves high levels of detail, close control, and a great bond with the rider and its horse. In a race against time, riders go around the barrels in cloverleaf patterns as they race their horses back towards the finish line. A fraction of a second can determine a winner—any barrels that are knocked over can incur penalties.
This event involves cowboys, horses, and calves. A cowboy waits as a calf gets a head start, running ten feet ahead of the cowboy. The calf has to be roped, tied, turn on the side while three of its legs are tied as well.
Saddle Bronc and Bull Riding
In the Saddle Bronc, the cowboy attempts to ride his horse, moving his legs from the neck of the horse to the saddle in rhythm with the horse. The cowboy must stay on the bronc for at least 8 seconds while avoiding touching the horse of the rope with his free hand.
Bull riding is harder than it looks! In the bull riding competition, a bullrope with a cowbell is tied around the bull. The rope, and the rider, must stay on the bull, using only one hand,throughout the ride—the cowboy will get higher points if he does spur. The cowboy must hang on for at least eight seconds.
The Evening Show and Concerts
The evening show takes place each night at the Calgary Stampede and begins with the GMC Rangeland Derby, a chuckwagon contest. Following the race, the TransAlta Grandstand Show serenades the crowd in concert and crazy acrobatic numbers with a grand finale of a fireworks display.
The Calgary Stampede features a world class concert series with country music stars like Reba McEntire, Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban and many more. Concerts take place at the Saddledome and tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
Dressing for the Stampede
When it comes to the Calgary Stampede, it’s best to dress for the west! Think cowboy boots, stirrups, blue jeans, big belts, button down shirts and anything else you can think of. Plaid is never out of the question and neither are jean shorts. Everyone at the stampede is serious about the fashion so definitely join in on the fun! If nothing else, make sure you get your hands on a cowboy hat.
When it comes to foot wear, steel toed boots, pointed cowboy boots, ankle boots, and any other kind of boot are welcome. However, keep in mind that your boots should be well worn in by the time of the festival as you will be walking for a large part of the day. Do your best to avoid blisters by choosing shoes that are both fashionable and comfortable.
Stampede Tickets and Pricing
When choosing tickets for the Calgary Stampede, there are several different pricing options. When purchasing tickets, try to minimize the wait time. If you can’t purchase tickets in advance, you may be able to purchase fast pass tickets in order to skip the lines. However these quick fixes are often very expensive. Staying for the entire festival is going to cost a lot, so be prepared.
Stampede Park opens at 11 am each day and closes at midnight. Entrance fees start at $9 for children and seniors and $18 for adults. Stampede Park offers free admission on certain value days throughout the Calgary Stampede. Days like BMO Kids’ Day, Suncor Family Day, and Western Heritage Day all are free to adults and children during the festival. Tickets to the Calgary Stampede Festival rodeo show, evening shows, and concerts are sold separately but do allow access into the park if purchased in advanced, visit the Stampede website for more information.
The Stampede Experience: What to Expect
Experiencing the Calgary Stampede in person is intense. You need to be well prepared if you plan to stay the entire nine day period. Before you get to the stampede, make sure you are well rested, hydrated, and in the mood to party! Plan to arrive early, because stampede festivities start very early the first day of the festival.
Once you arrive, you should plan out the events you want to see and what you want to do each day. The great thing about having a ten day festival is that you have the time and opportunity to see and do everything. No matter what day of the festival it is, expect to do a lot of walking and sweating—most events are outdoors and spread out over the fairgrounds.
Fare of the Fair: It’s as Wild as the West
The food at the Calgary Stampede is a wonderful smorgasbord of every southern delicacy under the sun. Barbecue, hot dogs, pizza—all the regulars are here as well as ANYTHING deep fried. Butter, Oreos, sushi, donuts and oh so much more are among the deep fried delights you can grab at the Calgary Stampede. You better loosen you’re belt buckle, this going to be a wild ride!
If you have any early mornings, don’t miss the complimentary Stampede Breakfasts that local Calgary establishments host. If you are staying the whole 10 days, try your best to balance your intake of fair food with healthy options at some of the local restaurants. When considering refreshments at the Calgary Stampede, many people choose to spend a lot of their time drinking beer or alcoholic beverages. Watch your drink intake, especially if you are not from Calgary! The city itself is high above sea level so it is very easy to get dehydrated quickly. Pace yourself and drink a lot of water.
Coming to Calgary
While you are visiting Calgary be sure to check out the sites outside of the stampede. Family favorites include visiting the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, the Canada Olympic Park, the prairies in the city of Alberta, Bank Avenue Brewing, and many more exciting places. Take a chance to check out the Indian Village and get the opportunity to experience the rich history and culture of the First Nations and the Treaty 7 Families.
Travel and Lodging
Check the Calgary Stampede website for local hotels partnering with the festival to try to save on rooms. If you are flying in, it is helpful to come in at least a day before the festival begins in order to recover from jetlag and prepare for the days ahead. Once your flight lands, renting a car or ubering is probably your best option if you don’t have accommodations that are within walking distance of the fairgrounds.
So, walk, fly, or even ride horseback but make sure that you’re on your way to the Calgary Stampede this summer!
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