Story by Jody Robbins
CALGARY, ALBERTA — Garth Brooks is tuning up, the white hats are in hand, the Stampede Ranch is kicking into high gear, and the flapjack flour is stockpiled. All of Calgary is ready to throw the biggest party on Canadian soil this year. More than a million people are expected for the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, now just one month away. Here’s a look at the latest happenings as the final preparations for the Stampede are put into place.
Much More Music
With something for everyone, the Coca-Cola Stage impresses with an eclectic schedule announced in late May. “This all-star line-up is talented and diverse. People will really enjoy every single show,” says Lindsay Ell, the Stampede’s programming production manager.
Our Lady Peace takes to the stage opening day, while The Sheepdogs rock out July 11 and electronic band Dragonette, known for its provocative lyrics, revs up the crowds on July 12. Also appearing are rockers Simple Plan and Big Sugar, rapper K’Naan and country crooner George Canyon. Mother Mother closes the place down on July 15.
With performances included in gate admission, there’s often a crowd surrounding the stage by noon on the day of sought-after performances, so plan your midway and rodeo activities accordingly. Better yet, purchase the new Midway Access Express Pass ($20) and get to the front of the lines every time. Valid only during the day of purchase, this pass is available (day of) on a first come, first serve basis at Stampede Park.
Rounding off the entertainment, who could forget about the Oxford Stomp? This private corporate event for the clients, tenants and staff of Oxford properties and other sponsors, takes place on the last Friday of the Stampede (July 13 this year) from 3 pm on. This year, the Goo Goo Dolls, Theory of a Deadman and Big Wreck will rock the crowds at Fort Calgary. Don’t worry if you’re not eligible to purchase a ticket ($65 plus GST and fees), they’re easy to come by if you lurk around the Fort late that afternoon.
Lick It and Stick It
You know you’re going to an impressive party when Canada Post issues a stamp to commemorate the event. Designed by Calgary artist Xerxes Irani, the domestic stamp features a powerful rodeo horse, while the US stamp showcases the anniversary belt buckle created by Alberta artisan Scott Hardy. This may be your only opportunity to snag one of the commemorative buckles, as only 100 of the real thing were produced.
And if you’re really into this sort of thing, you can download the free Stamps Alive! app and hover your smartphone over the stamp to access either a barrel race game or an interactive experience with a horse.
Off to the Rodeo
Swank Infield seats have sold out, but more affordable pre-purchase rodeo tickets are still available — for now. Having sold the same amount they typically have by mid-Stampede week, organizers expect the rest to be gone quickly. But don’t fret, each day of the Stampede 1,600 seats ($20) plus standing room ($12) are released and available at the Stampede Park Ticket Office.
No Horsin’ Around
With two equine deaths in 2011 and six in 2010, the Stampede has come under fire in recent years from animal rights groups.
Across the pond, RIGHT-Tourism, a new website dedicated to helping tourists avoid supporting animal suffering, has put the Stampede on its radar. Even Frommers, publisher of travel guidebooks, is warning tourists about the Stampede, stating, “Those with animal cruelty sensitivities might not care to attend this event.”
In addition to consulting with the Calgary Humane Society and Alberta SPCA, the Stampede has made recent changes to both chuckwagon and rodeo animal care practices. The number of chuckwagon outriders has decreased from four to two, and vet checks for the horses are now mandatory before and after the races.
Changes have also been made to the steer wrestling and calf roping (or tie-down roping) events, though the Vancouver Humane Society is urging for an end to calf roping entirely. [Read Vacay.ca’s exclusive report about animal care and the Calgary Stampede.]
With one month to go until the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, urban cowboys need to get a mosey on if they want to grow handlebars in time. London Barbers can ensure you look authentic (and give you the best hot towel shave in the city), but it’s the lasses who’ll let you know if your look is more Village People than Tim McGraw.
Cowgirls, looking to go head to head with the Stampede Princesses and their waist-length hair, can grab extensions from hedkandi and draw attention to those peepers, with a set of falsies from Lola Lash Bar.
We all know, two steppin’ just ain’t the same without cowboy boots on. Ensure you put your best foot forward during the festivities, by getting them custom made from AB Boot Co., outfitter to the RCMP, Hollywood heroes, and even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Thirty more sleeps. That’s all ya get, cowpokes. Best get some shut eye now as that early to rise, early in the sack thang ain’t happenin’ come July 6. Cakes on the griddle, however, is another story — best saved for next month’s final installment of the 2012 Calgary Stampede Countdown.
MORE ABOUT THE 100th ANNUAL CALGARY STAMPEDE
Dates: July 6-15, 2012
Rodeo tickets: Prices range from $12 for standing room to $389.25 for lounge access that includes a three-course dinner. Visit the Calgary Stampede’s website for details.
Other event tickets: Garth Brooks, Brad Paisley and Johnny Reid are among the headline concert acts announced for the 2012 Stampede. You can find concert tickets and tickets to other events, including the nightly “Century” show featuring Paul Brandt & the Young Canadians, at the Stampede’s website.
Free breakfast: Visit Flapjackfinder.com for all the free breakfast spots throughout the Stampede.
More news: Visit the Vacay.ca 2012 Calgary Stampede page for more articles, videos and special features.
SHARE YOUR STAMPEDE MEMORIES
Got something to say about the Stampede? Want to share some of your great travel photos and stories about the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth? Email Vacay.ca (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll publish your thoughts and your photos — and those who really impress us will win a travel prize!
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Note: Stamp photo courtesy of Canada Post; bareback riding photo courtesy of the Calgary Stampede.