Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede takes place in early July and attracts visitors from all over the world. This is one of the Calgary events worth taking several days to enjoy. The Calgary Stampede celebrates “Western Canadian heritage with dynamic contemporary entertainment”.

During The Week, as it is known by locals, the city of Calgary gets decked out in Stetson hats, blue jeans and cowboy boots. The city fills with visitors (around a quarter of a million in ten days) eager to participate in the greatest of the Calgary events of the year. The Calgary Stampede is one of the biggest rodeos in the world, calling itself “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”. This isn’t just a tourist trap either; most of the performers in the show are real cowboys, spurs and all. The rodeo competition is taken very seriously by participants.

The Calgary Stampede history dates back to 1912 when entrepreneur Guy Weadick and four business associates put up a cash prize for the winner of the rodeo. The event attracted around 60,000 people to the opening parade, celebrating what was thought to be the end of the great cowboy days. Considering that the population of Calgary at the time was only 65,000, the number of people who attended daily rodeo events (around 40,000) are pretty impressive.

Calgary Stampede Dates
Calgary Stampede Dates

Today, Calgary Stampede events are kicked off at Stampede Park on Thursday evening with a preview show of the next ten days of Calgary events. On Friday there is the parade, beginning at 9am. As with many Calgary Stampede events, spectators arrive as many as three hours early in order to secure a good seat. The parade lasts for at least two hours, involving around 150 entries, 700 horses, and 4,000 participants.

Many of the Calgary Stampede events take place in the Olympic Plaza (called Rope Square during the events) in downtown Calgary. Some of the typical Calgary events include: square dancing, mock gun-fights, country bands and native dances. During the night the square comes alive with music and dancing, cabaret style shows, fireworks, gambling, drinking, and general disorderliness.

The real highlights of the Stampede take place in Stampede Park. Here you can watch the bronco riding, buffalo riding, branding, roping, cow-talking and milking—all of the fun of the rodeo. A large portion of the park is filled with amusement park rides, stages for shows, stalls, and restaurants. In the Aboriginal Village you can see a teepee village of five First Nations peoples.

One of the hilariously dangerous-yet-irresistible-to-watch events is the chuck-wagon races. These and the rodeo are not included in the entrance fee for the Calgary Stampede, and another fee covers the chuck-wagon races, as well as the rodeo. Tickets for the wagon races and the rodeo are in great demand and go on sale up to a year in advance. If you don’t want to miss these events, look into getting tickets early.

There is also an array of things to do that are free once you've paid your general admission to enter the fair. These include live music, free-style biking and trick riding, and an annual talent show. Stages around the fair hold country music performances and other entertainment, and in addition, visitors to the fair will find plenty of barns, 4H competitions, marching bands, and horse pulls, among other activities.

Remember that Calgary accommodations fills up to the max during the Stampede, so be sure to make reservations far in advance.

Top image: eileenmak (flickr)

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