Where: Calgary, Alberta, Western Canada
When: 10 days from the first weekend in July
What happens: North America’s biggest rodeo with pow wows, and Indian village, chuck wagon racing, and bucking broncos
Remember to bring: a white cowboy hat to become an honorary Calgarian and an empty stomach for the numerous free Calgary breakfasts
The first Calgary Stampede was held in 1912 and was attended by 75,000 people – 14,000 more than the population of Calgary back then. Twenty thousand mounted Indians rode in the inaugural parade and encircled the entire city with their teepees. The prize money that year was an impressive $20,000 – paid in gold.
Today, the stampede is bigger than ever, and organizers work all year round to prepare for North America’s biggest rodeo, which takes place from the first weekend in July and lasts for 10 mighty days. In 2004, the total prize money finally reached a staggering one million Canadian dollars. Every year, the city of Calgary grinds to a halt and everyone goes cowboy mad. Calgarians even go to work in cowboy boots – even the police get in the spirit and wear cowboy hats on the beat.
Globe Trekker host Zay Harding with a fine pair of mules (Zay’s the one on the right!)
The White Hat Company
To experience the true spirit of the Stampede, try and take part in the White Hat Ceremony, which has been a Stampede tradition since 1948. It’s Calgary’s equivalent of giving the participants the key to the city. The white cowboy hat is a metaphor for Calgary and its people. Visitors can become honorary Calgarians through a presentation where they receive a hat and take a pledge, agreeing to spread Calgary’s brand of hospitality around the world. Honorary Calgarians are also encouraged to let out a loud ‘Yahoo!!’
The first white hats were made in 1946 after the Stampede Board decided it wanted its citizens to wear cowboy hats during the event. The hats have been presented to heads of state, royalty, movie stars, and athletes. The 1988 Canadian Olympic team wore them marching into the opening ceremonies.
Native Indian communities have been coming to the Stampede since the beginning. Today, the pow wows are massively popular, and it’s the largest meeting of First Nations peoples anywhere in Canada.
Pow wows are the Native Indian peoples’ way of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships – and making new ones. This is their time to renew thoughts of the old ways and to ensure the preservation of their rich heritage. Although Native Indian communities have moved with the times and set up pow wows online, the Stampede’s popularity stems from it’s traditional approach.
The Indian Village represents First Nations peoples from the five tribes of Siksika, T’suu Tina, Nakoda (Stoney), Pikuni (Peigan) and Kainai (Blood) of Treaty 7. There are 29 teepees at the Indian Village. Many of the elders have been participating since they were babies and now bring their children and grandchildren. There are numerous demonstrations of native traditions and culture as part of the pow wow event.
Chuck Wagon Racing
The most spectacular event is the Chuck Wagon Championship races. It’s a spectacular event in which four teams of four-horse drawn wagons are loaded with tent poles and raced in a figure of eight and then around a single circuit of the track. The races are staged every night of the Stampede at 8pm.
Other exciting events include roping calves, wrestling steers, riding buffalo, tackling cattle as well as the usual bucking bronco.
Stampede breakfasts, an integral part of the festival, are held everyday all over the city. The breakfast consists of pancakes, bacon, and coffee juice served with country music; it’s traditional to attend as many as possible and they are all free to attend, so if you wanted, you could eat pancakes everyday for 10 days without spending a penny! To find out where they’re held check the local paper.
Try a whole new Stampede experience and join in the Annual Testicle Festival! During the festival, which runs through Stampede Week, prairie oysters are on the menu for those brave enough to try them. And if people don’t believe you managed to digest a bull’s testicle, you get a certificate after the fact to prove your feat! Try delicacies like Alberta Tendergroin, Mixed Nutsand Great Balls o’Fire – if you can stomach it.
The official website with tickets, dates, activity information, and just about anything you could want to know about the modern-day event.
Contact: Lindsay Jardine (Tourism Sales Manager)
1410 Olympic Way SE
T2P 2K8, Canada
Toll Free: 1-800-661-1767
9615 Macleod Trail South
The one and only true Cowboy Bar in Calgary.
Alberta Boot Company Inc
614-10th Avenue SW
T2R 1M3, Canada
Makers of boots to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the largest manufacturers of footwear in Western Canada. Take time for a fitting for some custom-made cowboy boots.
40 – 10 Avenue S.W.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2R 0A3
A lively restaurant with cowboy cuisine in downtown Calgary, home to the delectable ‘Testicle Festival’.
The Inner Balance Spa
424 10 Street NW
Inner Balance is a unique spa experience that caters to the needs of the busy urban lifestyle as well as those who simply wish to refresh their energies and well being through the spa experience.
By Richard Cooke