Story by Jody Robbins
CALGARY, ALBERTA — It’s been dubbed the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but there’s more to the Calgary Stampede than bustin’ broncs and two steppin’ around the midway. Little do cowpokes know, the Stampede is one of Calgary’s largest music festivals, with over 100 acts taking the stage at venues across the city. Layer that with Calgary’s innovative food scene, and you’ve got a lot to chew on during the 10-day festival. Here’s a look at the best beats and eats to sample during the 2017 Calgary Stampede, which runs from July 7-16.
Every year the Stampede Midway introduces wacky new treats. There is crispy chicken feet on a stick and a heart attack inducing Double Bacon Mac N’ Cheese Dog. It’ll probably be too hot to properly enjoy the Unicorn White Hot Chocolate, but it’s oh-so Instagram-able. Bros who want to display feats of strength can sink their teeth into the world’s Hottest Pizza, infused with Carolina reaper peppers. And just when you thought it couldn’t be deep fried, Jello balls make their debut.
If you’re into interactive eats, check out the Stampede’s Kitchen Theatre. Situated inside the BMO Centre, you can watch Duelling Chefs, cowboy cook-offs and enjoy An Evening with Christine Cushing, a celebrity chef on Food Network.
For a new take on steak, mosey off the Midway and into Modern Steak in Calgary’s trendy Kensington neighbourhood. This is one of a few steakhouses in Canada that serves grass-fed, grain-fed, wet-aged, dry-aged and wagyu beef every day of the year. The restaurant sources from only three ranches in Alberta. While you may be tempted to go large — as in 24-ounce Tomahawk — take advantage of the knowledgeable servers who may steer you to something different, such as the incredibly tender and flavourful Flat Iron from Brant Lake, Alberta. Nothing tastes so quintessentially Calgarian than dry aged beef that’s been marinating in Jack Daniel’s for 150 days.
Speaking of 150, bookmark July 11 for the restaurant’s celebratory dinner in honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial.
More Vacay.ca Coverage: Calgary Falls In Love with Modern Steak
Every year, the Calgary Stampede hosts Sneak-a-Peek, the night before Stampede officially begins. This year they’re taking it to the next level with IgNITE. A carnival experience on steroids, the midway comes alive with lights and fire, as top DJs blast beats while adrenaline junkies experience rush after rush with an unlimited ride pass.
“We wanted to expand Sneak-a-Peek this year and with that in mind, we created IgNITE,” says Samara Lastiwka, production manager at the Calgary Stampede. “In addition to unlimited rides, we’ve got a stacked lineup of DJs coming and they’re bringing their club vibes to the Stampede, for one night only.”
Even Beakerhead, the city’s art, science and engineering festival, joins the party with interactive art exhibits, a roaming hippo art car and cannons that shoot 10-foot flames.
Pre-purchase IgNITE tickets to dance, ride and party the night away on July 6.
New this year, Stampede Shaker takes place on the historic Fort Calgary Grounds, and features Tom Cochrane with Red Rider, Sloan, Trooper and Steven Page on July 12. The day before, catch Duran Duran rocking out at Shaw Millennium Park during Roundup MusicFest. A portion of the proceeds from this corporate fundraiser go towards the Calgary Military Family Resource Centre. Rounding out the week is the Oxford Stomp, held July 14 at Fort Calgary. It’s headlined by Corey Hart, with opening acts Serena Ryder and Our Lady Peace.
Then there’s the five-time world champion Calgary Stampede Showband. No other marching band has ever taken home three consecutive wins at the World Association of Marching Show Bands, except these kids. Comprised of 150 dedicated community youth, you won’t want to miss their daily performances from 1:30-2:15 pm, and again from 8:30-9:15 pm on the steps of the Saddledome.
What’s great about Stampede is your gate admission grants you complimentarily access to the many concerts performed every day on the Coca-Cola Stage. Headliners include Nelly Furtado on July 10, The Strumbellas on July 12, and Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals on July 14.
For big deal concerts, the Virgin Mobil Stampede Concert Series features Johnny Reid, Brooks and Dunn, Alabama, plus Usher and The Roots playing on consecutive nights at the Saddledome inside Stampede Park.
Nashville North, a tented venue on Stampede Park, is part-saloon, part-dance hall and part-concert venue. It’s like a barnburner in the middle of the city, where you can catch country acts and learn to two step — if you’re brave enough to play urban cowboy.
Just outside Stampede Park, the legendary King Eddie (formerly the King Edward Hotel and Calgary’s home of the blues) morphs into a pop-up country saloon with all-Canadian talent providing toe tapping tunes. Arrive before 7 pm and you won’t pay a cover charge.
MORE ABOUT THE 2017 CALGARY STAMPEDE
Dates: July 7-16
Stampede Park Location: 1410 Olympic Way SE, Calgary, AB
Ticket Packages: A range of ticket packages are available. Visit the Stampede website for details.