Often lauded as one of the biggest parties in Canada, the Calgary Stampede is one event this summer you don’t want to miss.
Sure, some morally questionable things are bound to happen at a party of such magnitude (like divorce shops getting 50% more business immediately following the event; did you know that some bars have advertised formal “coat checks” for your wedding ring?) but that doesn’t mean that the more responsible among us can’t appreciate the less controversial perks of a first-rate round-up.
So when next July rolls around and you start to think about how unbearably sexy you look in a cowboy hat, and you ask yourself, “Should I go to the Calgary Stampede?,” here are just a few reasons why the answer should be an emphatic “Yee-haw” – which is polite cowboy-speak for “F**k, yeah!”
Amongst the confetti-esque mist of Bud cans and the endless supply of peripheral distractions, it’s easy to forget that every day at a large stadium on the Stampede grounds, there are real cowboys doing real cowboy sh*t. And it’s impressive. People are jumping off horses and putting miniature bulls in headlocks, they’re getting unexpectedly catapulted into the air by 2,000-pound animals and somehow landing on their feet, and they’re defying the laws of biology with vertebrae and hips that appear to be made from some indestructible plaid-rubber compound. You may suffer a few moments of objection from an “animal rights” perspective, but if you can work through that, it really is one hell of a show. And when the athletes have names like Dakota Buttar and J.B. Mauney, you know you’re watching the real thing.
The Beer Tents
There is nothing creative or complicated about this; take a tent the size of Monaco, fill it with bars, food trucks, live music, and thousands of people in cowboy hats, and you have just guaranteed yourself a party that would make Dan Bilzerian think he’s running a Bridge club. Cowboys, Wildhorse, and post-rodeo Nashville North all have incredible energy and killer crowds, and that’s just three of many. Be prepared to pay a premium for drinks ($7.50 for a can of domestic beer), but I assure you that mild financial anxiety will not buck the mood. Which leads me to my next point…
The Friendly, Fantastic People
I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to simultaneously dress like a cowboy and act like a prick. Something about the genre just makes me want to give the ladies a “Howdy” and the gents a “Pardner”, as hollow as that might sound coming from a Torontonian. And maybe Calgary always brings out the best, but everyone I saw during the Stampede, from the fathers and families to the bachelorettes and bull-riders, seemed to be “steering” clear of bad vibes and making an otherwise chaotic environment feel cheerful, endearing, and deliberately accepting of how anyone may choose to engage in the showtime and shenanigans. Big points for zero attitude.
The Options for Literally Everyone
It’s true. If you’re single at the Calgary Stampede, it’s not even shooting fish in a barrel; it’s dropping a toaster in a bathtub. But despite the tales of debauchery, the Stampede really is an event for anyone and everyone. The Stampede Park is essentially the CNE on cattle hormones with everything from rides and games to a dedicated kids-midway, a First Nations heritage “Indian Village”, and non-stop live outdoor music. In the course of fifteen minutes at Triple B, I met a bachelorette party, a couple celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary, a pair of newlyweds, a family with two young children and I watched a greasy lush get hurled off a mechanical bull. And then I ate a turkey leg the size of a Vespa…
Since returning from the trip, I have updated the two ends of my diet spectrum to, “Juice Cleanse” and “Stamplode”. Looking for a hot-dog infused with Cognac and covered in Kobe beef and lobster? A deep-friend peanut butter and jelly kabob? A jalapeno-poutine-mini-doughnut-bowl? DO YOU REALIZE THAT THESE THINGS ARE REAL AND THAT ANYONE CAN BUY THEM WITH MONEY??? You could spend one whole day just experiencing the food at the Stampede and all it would cost you is two weeks of income and about 8 years from your life. So. Worth. It.
From simply an eye-candy point of view, “Cowboy” has to be the most gender-equitable style on the planet; everybody looks good. Women in “Boots & Skirts”? Guys in Wranglers and button-ups? Beautiful ostrich-leather boots, silver and gold buckles big enough to be wakeboards, and hats that immediately make you feel like Chuck or Chick Norris? If you’re visiting from out of town, going by Lammle’s to stock up on gear is a must; if you commit to the style for just a few days, you may never go back. I’ve already started calling my “Cowboy Boots” my “Goin’ Out Shoes”.
The Rest of the City
One of the best things about Stampede is that it’s in a great city that knows how to feed from from the event’s energy without letting the pressure of novelty compromise its already impressive quality and character. On a few occasions I wanted a quick escape from the mavericks, mudpipes, and mayhem, so I went poolside at Raw Bar for incredible Vietmodern and live acoustic music; Vintage Chophouse & Tavern for some mouthwatering Alberta beef and fine red wine; popped into the bustling Simmons Building while taking in the Riverwalk and a bubble-tea from the nearby Chinatown. Calgary was enhanced but not consumed by the Stampede, and it made for some of the most up-beat down-time I’ve had in a while…there just wasn’t a whole lot of it.
So start saddling up for 2019, folks. The Calgary Stampede experience might just be “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, and if you’re above snakes the next time it comes ‘round, you should definitely be on the bandwagon.