Story by Sarah Deveau
CALGARY, ALBERTA — “Even the police officers are dressed like cowboys!” exclaimed my daughter as we walked around the Calgary Stampede fairgrounds on “Sneak a Peek” night — a preview of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth that took place on July 3.
Hordes of Calgarians and visitors poured through the gates of the city’s preeminent summer party, including plenty of Calgary’s finest in their black Stampede uniforms and black cowboy hats. My nine-year-old daughter accompanied me for her first of what will likely be many Stampedes.
A veteran Stampede-goer, I was curious to see how the grounds would look in a post-flood Calgary. When floodwaters ravaged wide swaths of downtown Calgary in June 2013, Stampede Park was one of the hardest hit areas. Many didn’t believe the show could go on — after all, the water had been three metres deep in the rodeo infield and the Saddledome was flooded up to the eighth row of seating.
But with an estimated $340-million injection into the local economy and 101 years of uninterrupted history at stake (the show went on even during two world wars and the Great Depression), cancelling the city’s most raucous party wasn’t an option. The 2013 Stampede was smaller than usual, but 2014 is back to the festival’s big, bold self.
From scorpion pizza to a shiny new Agrium Centre, there are plenty of new and notable features at the 2014 Calgary Stampede. We shied away from the deep-fried cheezies, instead noshing on traditional mini donuts and corn dogs (my daughter) and a vegan pizza (me). She rode every ride she was tall enough to venture on (more than 25 of them) and played numerous games of chance (discovering that the ones in the kids zone were much less challenging than the adult ones). We toured the Big Four Building and the BMO Centre for a much needed reprieve from the scorching sun, walking past fast-talking sales pitches for hair straighteners and miracle cleaning solutions in favour of spending a solid hour in the free and nearly empty Kids Corral area. We drank frozen lemonades, made mini Coke cans with our names on them at the Share a Coke custom can vending machines, and bought tickets for the “biggest ever” dream home lottery.
Hours after my daughter’s bedtime, we ended the night by watching the TransAlta Grandstand Show, “Barnburner”. The Young Canadians, a troupe of emerging performance artists, are joined on stage by an international cast in an elaborate musical performance featuring extreme acrobatics and dance, and capped off with an incredible fireworks show. The show runs nightly through the 10-day event.
The Stampede officially started on Friday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau among the attendees. William Shatner of “Star Trek” fame served as the Parade Grand Marshal and he intends to stick around town.
“I’m going to be part of the experience,” he told the Canadian Press. “That’s why we’re here, actually. We’re rodeo fans.”
MORE ABOUT THE 102ND CALGARY STAMPEDE
Dates: July 4-13, 2014
Tickets: Adult park admission is $16; children (7-12) pay $8; free admission for kids 6 years old and under.
Rodeo: Tickets to the rodeo range from $40-$267. Ticket prices include admission. Rodeo competition starts daily at 1:15 pm.
Concert Packages: Tickets to Shania Twain’s show and the Evening Grandstand Show start at $250. There are also packages for other artists. Visit the “Packages” webpage of the Stampede website for details.