Story by Jody Robbins
Vacay.ca Family Travel Columnist
CALGARY, ALBERTA — For 10 days every July, Calgary returns to its western roots and celebrates the people, the animals and the traditions that make up the unique spirit of the west. It’s time to dust of those cowboy boots, as the Calgary Stampede is one week away. What started as a tribute to the old west more than a century ago has morphed into the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. Starting July 3, Cowtown whoops it up in the world’s most decadent cowboy party. Here’s a look at why you need to mosey over to Calgary to experience it for yourself.
Calgary born and raised, Kaillie Humphries is this year’s Parade Marshall. The two-time Olympic gold medalist and 2014 Lou Marsh Award winner for Canada’s top athlete leads the Stampede Parade that kicks off the festivities. After the two-hour spectacle that includes more than 700 horses, 20 bands and 30 floats, locals mosey on down to Stampede Park for the rodeo, rides and refreshments.
The Virgin Mobile Stampede Concert Series always features big-name acts and this year is no exception. Country’s reigning couple, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, take to the Scotia Bank Saddledome on consecutive nights, while Jason Aldean and Stevie Wonder finish off the headline performances on July 11 and 12, respectively.
Oxford Stomp tickets are still available for the July 10 show that brings in Sheryl Crow, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, and the Sam Roberts Band to Fort Calgary.
Legendary rock band Journey, Collective Soul and Big Wreck also rock out Fort Calgary during Stampede Roundup on July 8 for this 20th annual event. This private corporate party annually draws a crowd of over 17,000 of Calgary’s “who’s who” for its entertainment and networking opportunities, and last year the Oxford Stomp raised $225,000 for the Rotary Club of Calgary, making it one of the most philanthropic events in the city.
An escape from high-intensity Stampede adventures is found at New Orleans North, the Stampede’s new jazz club. Trade some redneck for beatnik, and swap your Kenny Chesney for a little Kenny G by saddling up to this urban oasis. “The Stampede is intent on bringing urban and rural worlds together and for many years has presented a country format in Nashville North,” says Karen Connellan, director of programming.
Behold the Chuckwagon Races
Hooves thundering down the track, dirt flying up in the air, thoroughbreds whizzing past yours eyes. The GMC Rangeland Derby is world’s most prestigious chuckwagon race and the most engrossing. During the nine nightly heats, 36 drivers supported by their outriders race what’s known as the half mile of hell, attempting to win a portion of the $1.15 million in prize money.
Cockroach Pizza, Anyone?
Those mini donuts may have reached cult status, but each year dozens of tasty — or at least attention-grabbing — treats make their debut on the midway. Impress your friends by scarfing back Cockroach Pizza or tackle the flavour concoction of the Jalapeno Poutine Mini Donut Bowl. Scored big at Cowboys Casino? Indulge in the Dragon Dog, the world’s most expensive hot dog ($100) according to Guinness Book of Records. Check out all the new tasty treats here.
Cowboys and cowgirls throughout North America throw their hat in the ring during the richest tournament-style rodeo. Performing in front of 30,000 live fans each afternoon, these contestants don’t horse around as they vie for $2 million in prize money. From to bareback to bull riding to saddle bronc, nine rodeo events kick of each afternoon at 1:15 pm, but get here early to watch the Calgary Stampede Ranch Girls’ performance, which is as impressive as the RCMP Musical Ride.
Looking for tamer animals than wild stallions? Cute critters are found inside the Aggie- Zone where wee ones can pet the animals, watch the heavy horse pull and participate in mini-chucks. New this year, Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo, a 4,000-square-foot reptile exhibit that allows visitors to get up close and personal with some of the most famous reptiles in the world.
Four venues and more than 170 live music events make Stampede concerts music to your ears. Former Young Canadian Kiesza takes to the Coca-Cola Stage on July 3, followed by Aussie Vance Joy on July 5. Moist, Magic! and OK GO will also rock out the free stage. This is a family-friendly party, too and you’ll find Dora, Thomas and Friends, and My Little Pony performing interactive shows for the younger set each day at noon.
Where else can you watch the world’s best marching bands, performing artists and Canada’s most talented youngsters but at the Calgary Stampede? Each night the Young Canadians, Canada’s most talented teens take the stage and dazzle the crowd during the TransAlta Grandstand Show. The show includes a new number performed by Alberta Ballet and culminates in an explosion of fireworks.
During the day, Cirque Eloize wows fans at the Enmax Corral Show. This contemporary circus arts troop creates captivating performances that demonstrate their strength and artistic ability. Urban dance, acrobats and contortionists all vie for your applause.
Calgary mixologists are making a name for themselves in the beverage scene and naturally a few watering holes stand out. Bar C launches their Stampede-inspired cocktail list on July 3 and will sell the cocktails exclusively until July 12. “Paying homage to the 10-day celebration in Calgary, we wanted to create a cocktail list that was equal parts booze and boots with a dash of tradition,” says Brad Royale, Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts wine director. “We created a list of traditional cocktails, but made them in non-traditional ways.”
The Stampede-inspired cocktails include The Celery Caesar, I Got Bucked, Hacienda Caliente and Buffalo Fig Fizz. One things for certain, these cocktails will take you for a ride.
A tradition since 1923 when chuckwagon driver Jack Morton (aka Wildhorse Jack) moseyed downtown with his cookstove and camp cook, free breakfasts can be found throughout the city. Each day over 200,000 pancakes are served up at community breakfasts across the city. One of our faves takes place at Fluor Rope Square, where Flapjack Flip competitions and aboriginal performances provide additional entertainment.
[box_info]MORE ABOUT THE CALGARY STAMPEDE: www.calgarystampede.com[/box_info]