Calgary Stampede: Come hell or high water

It’s hard to believe that half of Calgary – including the Calgary Stampede grounds and Parade Route – was underwater just 10 days before Stampede started.

(Check out this video that shows a time lapse of the clean up effort: )

Stampede is more than ‘just a party’ as it injects over $345 million each year into the Calgary economy, with 1200 full-time jobs, 3,500 seasonal jobs and millions of dollars raised for local charities.

With stranger helping stranger, in 2013 this city has truly stepped up to help each other.

Which is probably why this year’s Stampede has been so special.

Here are some of my photos from this year that I would like to share with you –

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This year’s official Stampede t-shirt ‘Come Hell or High Water’ says it all. Funds raised from it’s sale go towards Alberta flood relief.




It started off with my first ever cowboy hat – from the very cool Smithbilt factory. They mold the crown and brim right in front of you in the back of the shop!




I had the pleasure of volunteering on the Pre-Parade this year as the sign carrier for the Filipino Community dance group. I was honoured.

I had the pleasure of volunteering on the Pre-Parade this year as the sign carrier for the Filipino Community dance group. I was honoured.




A couple of friendly navy boys .. and why yes… I am wearing my volunteer ribbon!




Yes, that's a bull being ridden through downtown Calgary

Yes, that’s a bull being ridden through downtown Calgary



There's a wonderfully diverse range of performers in the Parade

There’s a wonderfully diverse range of performers in the Parade



Lots of horses. Lots of uniforms. Win-win really.

The RCMP musical ride is always a highlight.



This year I got to meet the Calgary Stampede mascot: Harry the Horse

This year I got to meet the Calgary Stampede mascot: Harry the Horse




One of my favourite places to hang out on the Stampede grounds each year is the Indian Village. Each tipi has it’s own story and has been handed down through ceremony through the generations.



The top of the tipi represents the sky, the middle part represents the animal motives that are particular to the family, and the bottom part represents the earth



There is a powwow that takes place throughout the Stampede

There is a powwow that takes place throughout the Stampede



All seven of the local First Nation tribes are represented

All seven of the local First Nation tribes are represented




These beautiful work horses are always a highlight before the chuckwagons





The crowd was eagerly awaiting the evening’s grandstand show to begin!



The show had some great live flame effects – we were only ten seconds in when we got the first blast of fire! And the show didn’t stop building pace from that point on.




The show had spectacular lighting, great pyrotechnics and even flying people.




Some of the outstanding talent was this Freddie Mercury impersonator. Not only was he brilliant, but he flew in on this white piano




The finale had something for everyone – even a couple of magical flying horses.




The evening ended a moving tribute to Calgary and it’s flood volunteers. Followed by the traditional fireworks show.



Calgary Stampede: the 100th anniversary

Well what an amazing couple of weeks it’s been celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede.

From free flapjack breakfasts to two-stepping nights to the actual events at the Stampede grounds – there really was something for everyone going on in the city.

I met a lot of people over the two weeks and I would have to say that 1 in every 2 people that I met was from out of town somewhere (including lots of Aussies: hello Goondiwindi!).

Here’s some of my highlights from this year’s Stampede:











Off to our first flapjack breakfast of the Stampede!












Making friends with the Super Why mascot at the CBC Stampede breakfast












Parade Day: waiting for the Parade to get started. And just one of the many glorious summer days we’ve been having here.












Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) marching proudly down the street in their distinctive red uniforms



A particularly lovely Wolverine bolo tie












The Stampede racetrack where everything happens: rodeo, chuckwagons, grandstand show. Right now it’s getting ready for the evening chuckwagon races.












This is how they get the grandstand stage into place – with a giant tractor! They haul it in, hook up the power and hold the show on it that evening.












The Grandstand show in progress – and the Calgary summer evening atmosphere proved to be the ultimate smoke machine












Favourite image of the grandstand show was this beautiful golden bird swooping up above the stage












Not only was there a spectacular fireworks display each night at the Stampede grounds, but there was also fireworks at four other locations simultaneously during the first and last 3 days of Stampede!












First Nations are an integral part of Stampede celebrations, including the Indian Village and powwow that take place each year












Tipis with traditional designs are setup each year at the Indian Village on the Stampede grounds. Although the tipis may age and need to be replaced, the designs have been passed down through ceremony within the families












The public are warmly welcomed into the Indian Village and encouraged to visit the tipis that are ‘open’ for visitors.












And finally, no Stampede would be truly complete without at least one two-step with a cowboy!

5 things I don’t love about Calgary Stampede

It comes as no surprise that this list was much harder to compile than the ‘love list’. (see Tuesday’s blog post)

1. Local cynicism

The most outstanding disappointment for me is the local cynicism that Stampede just isn’t ‘cool’. Calgary seems to be split into those who do, and those who don’t. Really though, if putting your hometown on the map of Canada (and on the professional rodeo circuit) isn’t cool then I don’t know what it is.

2. The occasional wild hoodlum

This sounds like a lot more fun than it is. With all the partying going on in the city, there’s going to be the occasional incident. It’s that one person taking advantage and behaving like a jerk that gives Stampede a bad name.

3. The idea that Stampede is only about drinking

Given the partying during Stampede, it’s pretty easy to believe that it’s only a big booze up. And certainly for some people it is. But there is a whole lot more going on than that; I’m of the belief that you’ll find whatever it is you’re looking for. (Yes, that’s a challenge to the local cynics)

4. Traffic

The traffic around the Stampede area is insane and the transit system swelters to capacity at this time of year – which kinda sucks. Given that I live pretty close to the area, I just stay out of there as much as possible and accept that it’s going to be slow going.

5. Lack of healthy food options at Stampede

Even with all the food stands it’s pretty tough to find something decent to eat at Stampede. And even tougher for a vegetarian. It wouldn’t take much for a quick easy meal at the grounds – how about a Burrito stand? I think that would go over pretty well. Usually I pack my own food down there and add a bag of mini-donuts just in case I’m being ‘too healthy’.




5 things I love about Calgary Stampede

It’s Stampede time here in Calgary and for those of you not in the city, here’s my top 5 list of things I love about it (in no particular order).

1. The buzz in the air

There’s a vibe in the air for the two weeks that Stampede is in town. People are out on the patios, kids are allowed to stay up late and you never know quite who or what you’re going to see walking down the street at any time of day. (Last year a friend of mine saw an escapee cow running down 17th Avenue)

2. It’s a reminder of Calgary’s history

Calgary certainly didn’t get the name Cowtown by accident. Stampede is a reminder of the hardworking rancher backbone that built this city.

3. The country comes to the city

City folk like me get to experience the agricultural thrill of the biggest pumpkin, newborn piglets and impossibly glossy Clydesdales. It might sound cheesy to you, but the produce displays and the animals to visit – I love this part of Stampede.

4. Cowboys

Did I mention Calgary is full of cowboys at this time of year? Fake cowboys or real ones it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me. Hats, cowboy shirts, boots and wranglers. I actually wished people dressed like this year round.

5. It means summer is here (finally)

No matter how stormy the spring has been, Stampede always heralds warm sunny days. Summer is here to stay and Calgary likes to kick it off right with Stampede!



The culture of Stampede

Boots, buckles, cowboy hats and wrangler shirts – it’s Stampede time here in Calgary and there’s a cowboy hat on every corner.

For a city girl like myself I just love it when the country comes to the city.

The photo above is from one of my visits to the Chuckwagon barns. (The black buckets in the foreground there are their dinner getting set up for them for after the race. Note: curious horse on the right)

It’s been such a great first Stampede that it’s hard to pick one experience to sum it all up, so perhaps I’ll share with you the most recent.

As I found myself driving down Macleod Trail today behind the native horseback parade I couldn’t help but call out an exuberant show of support. ‘Right On!’ I yelled out to a young boy in ceremonial dress – and without so much as a pause he smiled back at me and called out ‘Right on you too!’.

This interaction for me is a typical show of the kind of well wishing and regard that is such a part of the culture of Stampede – and indeed of the people who live in this great city.