Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stampede is coming

I was in Walmart today picking up a few groceries when I saw a really cute elderly couple and the husband was wearing a western shirt and a bolo tie. Ah Stampede is coming. It actually starts next Friday and goes for 10 days,  and there's sneak-a-peek on the Thursday before the parade.

More specifically The Calgary Stampede and this year is the 100th anniversary of The Largest Outdoor Show on Earth. Their tag line not mine. As a native Calgarian I've certainly gone numerous times. I do like to take a year off now and then. I also often find myself explaining it to people when I'm away and they find out I'm from Calgary.

The whole city dresses western. It's pretty funny to see guys in suits turn into cowboy's overnight in the downtown core and there's painted windows on sky scrapers depicting western scenes, hay bales on corners of downtown streets plus lots of free pancake breakfasts all over the city and lot and lots of Stampede parties at pretty much every bar in the city. Lots of companies have them as well for their employees. I can't go to my group's shindig this year as it's on a day that doesn't work for my fly in fly out schedule.

I always enjoy seeing the real cowboys, those that actually earned that shiny belt buckle, the jeans are more likely to be Wranglers then 7 for Mankind and the cowboy boots are scuffed. Yes I am a hopeless romantic.

Not uncommon to see bars full by 10:30am during Stampede, though people do generally behave themselves. In a previous job I remember the sales guys pretty much disappearing by 10am never to return during Stampede. There's loads of fun family activities too.

The Rodeo itself is fairly lucrative for the real cowboys and cowgirls competing as it's a $100000 for each event.

The rides on the midway get bigger and better, this year a 900ft zip-line across the park, a roller-coaster named after a legendary bull named Outlaw and a Flowrider surfing simulator - something for everyone.  I don't really do the rides anymore but I do remember having lots of fun in the past. I even had a strategy, we'd go on Seniors Day in the morning and barely have to stand in line of course that was back when I was in Junior High.

Then there's the food - mini donuts (love the donuts), candy floss and multiple other questionable and truly delicious delicacies can be found on the midway plus they always find something new to deep fry - this year I think Wagon Wheels and pickle chips are new to be deep fried. Last year I enjoyed the poutine place with about 10 different versions. It is possible to eat healthy at the park maybe not as fun, though this year there's Saltspring Island Noodle Stir Fry's with no oil though I might need to check out the Red Velvet Funnel Cake.

I always try to win a vehicle with the Kinsmen charity lottery. There's always quite a few to try to win. Plus there's a show home you can try to win that they construct in the middle of the park and you can do a walk through.

It starts off on Friday with the parade which is televised across Canada. However the marching bands and floats come all over North America and a few from as far as Australia and Europe. Now watching the parade live is like preparing for a military operation. You need to be downtown hours before the parade starts to get spot where you can see something and be armed with a lawn chair and snacks/beverages. Locate the closest set of port-o-potties as well. I think an average of about 350000 people line the parade route. Last year with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attending it was closer to 425000. I've gone a few times but much prefer watching it on TV. If I ever went again I'd book a seat in advance and pay the $12 for a guaranteed spot on a bleacher. Gosh, those bleachers go up in a blink of an eye as well as they're installed only for the parade. I remember see them go up as I would be leaving from work on the Thursday and by Friday morning shazam all was constructed.

When I worked downtown it was always another military operation just to get to work on parade day. Heaven forbid you to go through the parade route itself as by 6am people are lined up and by I think 7am the streets close to traffic, the parade starts at 9am. I would have to negotiate passage across a street with the lawn chair people as they were not moving. I remember once seeing a car trying to exit the downtown but the row of lawn chair people didn't want to move as it was past the road closure time.

You get to dress western at work during the parade as well and I would think it was fun for the first few days and then I'd start running out of ideas of what to wear. Last year I got 2 short sleeved western shirts so I should be good for this year.

Don't get me wrong the parade is fun and if you ever have the chance to go I suggest you plop yourself down by where one of the television stations are set up as then the bands will stop and play as opposed to walk buy.

This year I'm going to the park on the second Friday, Friday the friends and I have tickets for the Grandstand show and chuckwagon races.It always ends with a spectacular fireworks show that I can actually hear from my house and I'm about 30min away from the Park. I'm very much looking forward to that.

I really like walking through the barn and seeing all the amazing horses. Plus there's always a trade show with people selling their as seen on TV wares which I find amusing. I always have fun when I go. Plus there's a multitude of free concerts in the park at the Coca Cola Stage and Nashville North that are included in the admission to the Stampede. Big names come to town that have a bigger you have to buy tickets for concert. I saw Bon Jovi one year. This year Garth Brooks is back and the tickets were $65 of course it sold out in 2 seconds. I would have really liked to see that.

I didn't really do the entire event of the Calgary Stampede justice so if you'd like to know more about Stampede go here to check out the official website. They have a really cool event planner feature on there so you can plan what you want to see as there's loads to take in.

I know I'll be working downtown again and will have to get my Western groove back on for those 10 days in July.

It's funny I didn't plan to write about Stampede but just got inspired by that bolo tie in Walmart.


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