Giddy up, it’s Calgary Stampede time Sep06


Related Posts

Share This

Giddy up, it’s Calgary Stampede time

I really had no idea what I was signing up for that fateful night in Oregon when we decided to buy tickets to the Calgary rodeo. I haven’t been to a rodeo since I was about 8, but since I love to try new things, it seemed like a perfectly good idea, and finally the dates were lining up in our favor. Often we have just missed the big event or a free concert or the thing when our timing didn’t perfectly align. We haven’t planned much of our trip around an event, but that was about to change. We shared our plans with Ann and Jen who quickly decided that they wanted to partake in this event. After trading a few calls with papa Ken, we secured a room at the Worldmark timeshare in Canmore, about an hour west of Calgary.

Hell-or-High-Water-tshirtUnfortunately, Alberta was hit with a series of terrible rain storms, which caused a great deal of damage to homes and roads. Was this going to impede our stampede? Officials were quick to confirm that show will go on. In fact, the president of the Calgary Stampede was quoted saying “the event will go ahead…come hell or high water.” We kept tabs as the date approached, and true to their word, the stampede showed minimal affects. One amphitheater remained closed, but besides that, evidence of a catastrophic storm was minimal. Some cheeky cat even had the idea to create a t-shirt, which were proudly being worn by many of the attendees.

Saddledome & stampede grounds

Saddledome & stampede grounds

Ann and Jen arrived on Thursday and we had tickets for the following day’s performance. So excited to be reunited, we spent the evening practically talking over one another to share stories and catch up on recent events. We enjoyed the Worldmark’s barbeque and dined in, but before to long, it was time to call it a night. Okay, maybe sooner for one of us than the others, but that detail isn’t really important.

Finally, it was stampede day, so we checked the website for parking particulars and learned that festive attire was encouraged. Easy enough for Lin as she’s been sporting a cowgirl hat since Wyoming. This prompted some conversation, but didn’t much alter our plans, until… In route to Calgary, we found ourselves in need of a bio brake – Starbucks to the rescue. Situated next to the coffee king was a dollar store, where Ann spied a handkerchief which I had earlier mentioned a desire for. Turns out that everything at the Canadian dollar store isn’t actually a dollar, but it served its purpose and provided a kerchief for me and a fetching new hat for Ann.

Which of these is not like the others ? :)

Which of these is not like the others ? 🙂

IMG_1244We parked with relative ease, far enough from the mayhem to hopefully make a slightly quicker get away later that night. We were all peckish and assumed our food options inside the rodeo would be essentially crap, so we got lured into a restaurant by the awesome country band playing. We made quick work of lunch, noting the apropos specials being offered, although none of us had the nerve to order gonads. Not knowing exactly which direction to head we followed the masses and were soon at the entrance. It was after 1:00, so we immediately found our way to the stadium since we had tickets to the 1:15 event. It was hot, and much like baseball stadium seating, I was very, very close to my neighbor, which made my warm body temp even hotter. I downed a bottle of water and settled in to enjoy the show. Being such a rodeo gringo, only now have I actually learned the names of the events we saw; steer wrestling, female barrel racing, bull riding, bareback bronco riding, and the kiddie version of that where three of them try to man-handle a pony and ride it for 5 seconds.

During the intermissions between the events we watched a band play, helicopters waving flags, and a very funny emcee, who later doubled as a clown during the bull riding. I was grinning ear to ear despite the constant beads of sweat running down my face and back. I could have enjoyed several more hours of events like these. Despite feeling like a duck out of water, I tried to channel my maternal grandpa who was a great rodeo fan.

IMG_1247If I’m remembering correctly, he participated for years until age got the better of him. I wish I knew more of his experiences, the rules, or even who’s who amongst the participants. I imagine this is what an Englishman feels when watching American football for the first time. (side note: I remember the day Ann & I showed grandpa the internet for the first time and when we asked what he was interested in finding online, he said the results from the recent National Rodeo.)

The events portion of the day was over so we regrouped to try and decide how we’d spend the remaining portion of our day before returning for the evening performances. This place was huge & with so much to see, how would we figure out the best plan of attack. As we passed the Nashville watering hole, it seemed obvious, another drink might offer that needed clarity; remembering our friend Saundie says, beer makes me clear. The band was good and we were out of the sun, two thumbs up for that, but after a short while it became clear that we needed to move on and see the sights.


IMG_1255 IMG_1251

Gelato spells YUM in any language

Gelato spells YUM in any language

We wandered, got up close & personal to the Clydesdales, shopped for a souvenir, and tried to find a dinner option that didn’t include the word fried. I remember reading that food trucks were on sight, but after much searching we were about to give up, thinking that Canadian food trucks equated to pizza and fried dough. But alas, we found the five food trucks and had slightly better options than we’d seen to this point. Eating while sitting on a bail of hay we watched two women teaching children how to make rope. One after another they stood belted into a harness as one woman twisted three individual strands to make a rope and the other woman stood near enough to the child to ensure he didn’t tip over from the tension. Bellies full it was time to head back to the stadium for the evening extravaganza.

The first half of the evening show was Chuck Wagon racing.


Then they cleared the arena and started building a massive stage right in front of us. Canadian musician, unknown to us began rockin’ the house. It wasn’t long before it started pouring rain, so we gave up our seats and sought cover. Our new seats were concrete steps under the overhang of the second balcony. Soggy wet clothes, bodies & hair hardly mattered because the theatrics of this performance were so grand. Above the stage and through a thick cloud of smoke now appeared a piano hanging from the sky while the musician played on through the rain storm. As if that wasn’t surprising enough, next we heard the song Rock & Roll All Night begin to play. Could it really be? It took a few minutes for my ears to connect to my brain as I would never have imagined that Gene Simmons and KISS would make a grandstand appearance at a rodeo. Well, it was true, there he was in all the usual black & white glory. By this time four seats had opened up next to us, so we slid in and enjoyed what ended up being my favorite part of the evening. Giant mechanical horses rose from behind and above the stage and galloped across the sky. A truly awesome feat of gravity.

A bag of kettle corn entertained us as we made our way back to the car and prepared for the 1+ hour drive back to Canmore. What we didn’t anticipate was a lightening storm that took our breath away several times as golf sized rain drops pounded the car. I’m pretty sure I saw lightening hit the earth more than once. Needless to say, this storm was too close for comfort. Once home, I may have been asleep before my head even hit my pillow, but there was surely cowgirl fairies twirling lassos in my head.