CALGARY, Alberta-Nicholas J Parkinson Staff Writer
While the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park offer a plethora of outdoor activities, there is no one event that rivals the Calgary Stampede in terms of getting to know local culture. Each year, millions of visitors from around the world flock to Alberta’s capital to be a part of the Canadian Rockies’ own cowboy culture, rodeo and parade.
The first Stampede took place in 1912 back when founder and Stampede guru Guy Weadick envisioned a Wild West Extravaganza. The inaugural stampede was a “”roaring success”. The Stampede then combined its old west vaudeville spirit with the Calgary Exhibition in 1923, added chuckwagon races and eventually became the mega-event it is today.
Since 1912, the event has grown its attendance to over 1mn people and reserved its rodeo for only the top bullriders in North America gunning for prizes worth up to US$1.5mn.
This year, the event kicks off July 3rd with a cowboy parade through downtown Calgary. Then, for the next 10 days, the public enters a cowboy world full of barbeques, blacksmiths, amusement park rides, rodeo events, and native American culture.
Every day at 1:30pm the rodeo launches a new event. While bullriding is always a crowd favorite, saddle bronc and bareback riding are thrilling as well. Just like any other rodeo in North America, spectators enjoy the moves of the intrepid rodeo clowns as well as other types of horse racing. For family fun, crowds head to the Stampede Midway, AKA: the amusement park.
Local Albertan, Andrew Krentz, calls this event the “biggest event of the year for most Calgarians.” Krentz is a local skier and mountain enthusiast, but admits to being interested in the Stampede. “I love the chuckwagon races. It just doesn’t get any better,” he explains.
The Canadian Rockies have always provided a beautiful backdrop for cowboys and cowboy culture. The filming of the movie Brokeback Mountain made the area’s scenery famous and also popular among cowboys and cowgirls.
“Texas Light,” Krentz says. “People here are like Texans, but not as over-the-top.” However you want to look at it, heavy or light, the Stampede gives Alberta visitors a chance to see a unique face of Canadian culture and a charming component to the Canadian Rockies’ beauty.
THE HEART OF THE WEST
Calgary, considered the ‘Heart of the New West’, is located in south western Alberta, in a region of foothills and high plains. It is the third largest city in Canada and shines with optimism and possibilities for the future. It has many things to offer those who love the city life, as well as the great outdoors, with the Canadian Rockies only an hour away.
Calgary is a cosmopolitan financial centre with first class shopping, theatre, galleries, restaurants, ballet, concerts, dazzling nightlife, jazz festivals and professional hockey. Calgary has been called the showcase city for Canada. The shopping in Calgary is a shopper’s wonderland, as Alberta is the only province in Canada without a provincial sales tax.