Is it a rodeo? An exhibition? A festival? Or all three? More than just midway rides, bucking broncos and a ten day long celebration of Western heritage, the Calgary Stampede is a gathering place for horse enthusiasts from all over the world – hosting, educating and entertaining a global audience. To locals it’s ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’, and this annual call-it-what-you-want event is held across ten days every July in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Attracting over one million visitors each year, the Calgary Stampede is a unique experience for the world to enjoy. A two-and-a-half mile Stampede Parade kicks off the event, featuring beautiful floats, marching bands, celebrities, cultural performances and of course horses. But what are the main attractions? The central event is of course the rodeo, but there are six major events that happen each day: wrestling, saddle bronc, bareback, ladies barrel racing, tie-down roping and steer wrestling. Competitors face off in one of the largest and most famous events of its kind in the world.
But the fun doesn’t stop at the end of the day. Each night it’s a back-to-back combination of the GMC Rangeland Derby – a chuckwagon race in which drivers are led by a team of horses…that pounding of hooves and trembling of the ground needs to be experienced – and the TransAlta Grandstand Show which often has different entertainers including performances from the Alberta Ballet and a tight-rope walker who walks on fire. And let’s not forget the spectacular fireworks show!
The Calgary Stampede also features a vast array of arts and agricultural exhibits, musical performances, shopping, and of course the Stampede Midway carnival which offers rides and games of all kinds for all ages. You will feel like a kid in a candy store as you walk around the grounds! The captivating experience is unrivalled, the excitement intoxicating and the Stampede spirit consumes the city.
The first Calgary Stampede was held in 1912 when the era of the Canadian Old West had just passed. It had mixed success, (rain contributing to a lot of the problems) but still drew 80,000 people which was double Calgary’s population at the time. The Stampede’s visionary, Guy Weadick, persevered and grew the Calgary Stampede into what it is today.
Well I’m keen to know globetrotters, has anyone been to the Calgary Stampede? Did you immerse yourself in the Western culture, dine on amaze-balls Western cuisine and get yourself some good ol’ cowboy boots while you were there to click your heels and dance the night away in?
And don’t forget, if you are heading off on our horse riding holiday in BC Canada in July at the time the festival occurs, a visit to the Calgary Stampede is a MUST!
Image credits: Calgary Stampede and Wall Street Journal