Story by Sarah Deveau
LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA — Eight years before the Calgary Stampede debuted, another festival focused on a rodeo livened up summer in southern Alberta. Whoop-Up Days has been an annual celebration in Lethbridge — a city about two hours south of Calgary and one hour north of the Montana border — and one of Canada’s most fun-filled end-of-summer celebrations.
The festival is named after Fort Whoop-Up, a National Historic Site also known as Fort Hamilton that was overrun by outlaws and whiskey traders in the 19th century. The fort is in the vicinity of the Whoop-Up Days celebrations, which are held in Exhibition Park, a massive public space that has plenty of room for the festival’s activities that include concerts, a farmers’ market, a trade show, midway rides, a carnival atmosphere and the rodeo.
“Whoop-Up Days is a strong economic driver for Lethbridge and southern Alberta,” says Doug Kryzanowski, manager of marketing for the festival. “It attracts visitors, friends and relatives from throughout Alberta and Canada and northern Montana. It’s also held at a time of year when many families are coming back into the city from their holiday vacations, college and university students are starting to come back into the city — it’s a great week for reunions, experiencing the fair, and with great fair food and enjoying fun times.”
Whoop-Up Days began in 1904. It is now held for five days in the last full week of August. This year’s event begins on Tuesday and runs through Saturday. Here’s a day-by-day guide to enjoying the 2015 edition of Whoop-Up Days:
Tuesday, August 18
Grab a seat along the four-kilometre long parade route through the heart of downtown Lethbridge for a fantastic, family-friendly showcase of the culture and community of southern Alberta. Locally owned Andi’s Petting Zoo has bunnies, potbellied pigs, goats, sheep, miniature donkeys, miniature horses, and calves available for petting at Pioneer Park (included in festival admission).
Wednesday, August 19
Festival Street, in front of the pavilions, features daily entertainment, food, novelty vendors and street entertainers. Look out for a baby T-Rex, take in the Global Drum show nightly at 6:30 pm and sign up for the kids’ tractor pull pedal competition.
Closing the night is One Bad Son, who will hit the stage at 9 pm. This band has spent the last two years touring the country, playing venues and festivals of all sizes, and is sure to rock the house.
Thursday, August 20
The Canadian Professional Rodeo Association’s events kick off on Thursday at 7 pm, with another event Friday at 7 pm and the finale on Saturday at 3 pm. It features a full lineup of rodeo events including bronc riding, steer wrestling and barrel racing.
The Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Tipi Village in Pioneer Park is entertaining and educational. Visit the tipi exhibits, view First Nations artifacts, try traditional food, and purchase arts and crafts from aboriginal artisans. Dance demonstrations and drumming circles are ongoing.
Hailing from Calgary, Ell is a triple threat in the music world — an accomplished singer, songwriter and guitarist. Porter, who hails from the small Alberta city of Medicine Hat, has opened for Kenny Chesney and Trooper, among others.
Friday, August 21
Offered daily at Pioneer Park, $10 gets you 10 minutes of hilarious fun with Wobbly Balls. Walk on water in an orb — this is a blast for parents and kids alike.
Saturday, August 22
The beer gardens open at 3 pm for Roots & Blues Festival Day, with performances by the Eric Braun Brand (3-4:15 pm), Driving While Blind (4:30-5:45 pm), Texas Flood (6-7:15 pm), Leeroy Stagger (7:30 pm) and Steve Hill (9 pm). Don’t miss the best event: The fireworks finale at 11 pm is visible from the grounds, or you can find a pretty spot near Henderson Lake to settle in and watch the show.
More About 2015 Whoop-Up Days
Location: Exhibition Park, 3401 Parkside Drive South, Lethbridge, AB<
Dates: August 18-22, 2015
Admission: For the best deal, pick up the Westcoast Amusements Midway Advance Super Ticket (on sale up to midnight on August 19 at all Gas King, UFA and CEP Automotive locations). It includes gate admission and unlimited rides for $40, a savings of $15.