Calgary Stampede ropes record crowd


Mayor Naheed Nenshi took his hands away from his Twitter account long enough to give the fawning crowd a big wave at the 2012 Calgary Stampede Parade. (Jody Robbins/

Story by Jody Robbins Writer 

Sisika Blackfoot-2012-calgary-stampede

Members of the Sisika Blackfoot nation honour the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede during Friday’s opening day parade. (Jody Robbins/

CALGARY, ALBERTA — With jets, fireworks and record-breaking crowds, Calgary kicked off the Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth — again.

The Calgary Stampede centennial got underway this morning, with jubilant crowds sporting the city’s famous western hospitality. Yes, Cowtown has opened her arms to the world, confirms Mike Casey, president and chairman of the board for the Calgary Stampede.

“We’re literally inviting the world to join us, whether you’re from a nation halfway around the world or a community in southern Alberta,” he says.

Parade Posse

Estimated crowds of 400,000 lined the streets downtown (in some cases 10-people deep from the curb), surpassing estimates of 300,000 and previous attendance records of 200,000. That’s almost as impressive as the first parade in 1912, when 80,000 attended the opening spectacle surpassing the city population of 60,000 (And you can bet they didn’t have port-a-potties).

We’re Greatest Together

The second-largest Parade in North America (the Rose Bowl Parade takes the top honour) was more than two hours long, five kilometres in length, and featured participants from all over the world, including Denmark, Taiwan, Guatemala, Colombia, and Thailand.

Says Susanne Huggard, chair of the Parade committee: “With 123 entries joining us for the Centennial Parade, we can’t wait to kick off The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”

Celebrating the Stampede’s 100-year history were 26 bands, 23 floats, and 45 horse entries. Yep, them horses are messy critters, but fortunately well dressed street-cleaners swept through the streets on more than one occasion.

Parade marshal Ian Tyson, the acclaimed singer-songwriter from Western Canada, rode on horseback, and was joined by seven honorary parade marshals from the First Nations of Treaty 7. First Nations members have always played a prominent role, right from the very start of the Stampede, when at the request of founder Guy Weadick, 1,800 members of Treaty 7 led the 1912 parade.

Top Canadian Cowboy (and Prime Minister) Stephen Harper watched with his family, while Premier Alison Redford rode alongside Mayor Naheed Nenshi — who managed to tweet from his horse. What a guy!

While the Ismaili Muslim Community won for the best overall entry, it was the members of the Canadian Forces that lassoed the loudest yahoo’s. Nobody ever said Calgarians don’t love a man in uniform.

First Friday

Moseying over to a saloon after the Parade, is a quintessential part of the Stampede experience (and who are we to buck tradition?). Back in the day, Dusty’s with its sawdust floor and non-surgically enhanced staff, was the destination. Fast forward several reincarnations and the Cowboys’ tent at Stampede Park is now the place to be. Remember, partners, this party’s just begun so pace yourself accordingly or you’ll be too tuckered out to pancake properly come the weekend.

Around Town

The Stampede is a citywide event, and there are plenty of rootin’ tootin’ activities outside of Stampede Park to partake of.

Start by earning your spurs at Bottlescrew Bill’s during its annual testicle-cooking festival. Have a ball with bacon-wrapped tendergroin or enjoy your prairie oystersstraight up.

Prefer a bit more refined western culture? Exhibiting the iconic western paintings by famed cowboy artist Charlie Russell, the Glenbow Museum is reuniting Calgarians with several of the original paintings he showcased at the 1912 Stampede.

A little something for wee-wranglers can be found at the historical village of Heritage Park. This quiet setting is an ideal place to get a first-hand glimpse into First Nations culture. “Drum, Dance and Discover” takes place July 14-15, with aboriginal performances and demonstrations including hide scraping with traditional tools and opportunities to make bannock bread.

Heritage Park is also the southwest location for Light Up the City fireworks performance, which takes place Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights during the Stampede’s two weekends. So if you can’t muscle your way into Cowboys, Nashville North or Ranchman’s, at least you’ll have someplace to saddle up to.

Where are your favourite Stampede haunts? Let VacayNation know below or email our editors.


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 for all the free breakfast spots throughout the Stampede.
More news: Visit the 2012 Calgary Stampede page for more articles, videos and special features.


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 ( and we’ll publish your thoughts and your photos — and those who really impress us will win a travel prize!

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Jody Robbins is a travel and lifestyles writer. Contributing to the Calgary Herald, Today’s Parent and Up! magazine, she divides her time between Calgary and Canmore. She is also the Family Travel Columnist for and the Alberta Regional Chair for the Top 50 Restaurants in Canada, which earned 2.5 million Twitter impressions in its first month for the #Vacay50 hashtag campaign. Jody is active on Twitter (@Jody_Robbins) and maintains her own blog (Travels with Baggage), where you can keep up with all of her latest adventures. When not travelling with her precocious children (one daughter, one husband and one dog), this wannabe foodie can usually be found chowing down at the latest hotspots before attempting to work it all off on the trails.

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