Cowboys and cowgirls, bulls and steers, horses and wagons, that’s what the Calgary Stampede is all about. Known as the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, the show kicks off with the Stampede Parade, a foot tapin’, hand clappin' extravaganza, with riders, music and highly decorated floats - more than 750 horses and 3000 people take part. The ten day event is jam packed full of events, displays, rides and music, there’s something for everyone, even the little ones.
With the aim of preserving the values of a western lifestyle, the Stampede started in 1912 and true to its goal, it showcases western agriculture at its very best. There’s the skill and speed of the cutting horse competition, a heavy horse show, and the agri barns where the kids can get right up close to horses and bulls. Add to that the country music legends and the rock stars, and the life of a cowboy really does come alive.
For many people the highlights of the stampede are the rodeo, and the Chuck Wagon races. The rodeo features some of the best riders and the finest stock in the world, and with over $2 million in prize money the competition is fierce. The rodeo takes place after lunch each day, and culminates when the best of the best come face to face to battle it out for the top prize. When the dust has settled, the sound of hooves pounding on the ground starts all over again when the Chuck Wagon event gets underway. This event sees horse drawn wagons travel around the track at breakneck speed. But even when that’s done, the day doesn’t end there. Once the Chuck Wagons have crossed the finishing line, the grandstand is turned into an entertainment showground with song and dance numbers, comedy acts, daring acrobatics, music and a fantastic firework finale on the last night.
Put on your cowboy hat to protect you from the sun (or the rain) and join the 400,000 people who attend the stampede out on the streets of downtown Calgary. The parade prelude starts at 7:30am, with the main parade kicking off after the opening ceremony at 9am, so arrive early to grab one of the free seats along Sixth and Ninth Avenues (first come first served), you can stand, or choose paid seating if you prefer. It may be cool at first, but things can heat up quickly, so remember some water, your hat and sunscreen. Of course, if the weather is cold and wet, have something warm and waterproof, but leave umbrellas at home because those standing behind you won’t be too happy.
It doesn't matter who you are, the Calgary Stampede has something to appeal to everyone, from world class rodeo to art exhibits. But one thing that everyone must bring, whatever their interest, and that’s their cowboy boots!