Rodeo Fever at the Calgary Stampede. Giddy Up Cowboy.

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It’s in their blood. Fathers and sons, it’s an ongoing theme in the chuckwagon racing world. in the program you’ll find the same surnames over and over as generations of fathers and sons make their mark in one of the most exciting events in the rodeo. Photo Credit: Mike Ridewood

A rodeo is a family affair. I’ve loved rodeos since I was the age of this little fan at the Calgary Stampede. Until this year, I didn’t have a cowboy hat as nice as hers. Photo Credit: Chris Bolin /

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve always loved rodeos, and the in Alberta, Canada was on my bucket list for years.  I finally dusted off my cowboy boots and joined daredevils, horse enthusiasts, music lovers, families, and wannabe cowboys, at the western extravaganza. Spanning ten days in July, the Stampede draws over a million visitors from around the world.

Rodeo Fever   One of the best thrills was being part of a crowd ramped up on adrenaline watching bronco busters, bull riders, steer wrestlers, women’s barrel racing, tie-down roping, horse relays and the world’s top chuckwagon races.

The best of bareback riding. The bucking horses from the Calgary Stampede Ranch are world-renowned for their performance as professional rodeos across North American. The best performers in the world come to win. This daredevil stayed on the horse for 8 seconds. Credit: Shane Kuhn

The 10-day event offers a combined $2 million in prize money. Looking over a sea of cowboy hats, I watched a Texan stay on his bucking horse for eight seconds to win $100,000 in the bareback riding. The crowd went wild with whistles and applause. The rodeo is capped off with the nightly Grandstand Show and fireworks finale that light up the sky.

Photo Credit: Marybeth Bond

Cowboy Couture

The entire city of Calgary gets into the Stampede mood with free pancake breakfasts, parades, barbecues and endless parties. Many visitors, (like me), don our western duds to look the part with denim jeans, plaid shirts, fancy boots and cowboy hats. But the locals are the true fashion stars. Their full western regalia include leather vests, native jewelry, big belt buckles, bolo ties, red bandana neckerchiefs and white Stetson hats.

Photo Credit: Marybeth Bond

Crazy, Creative Food  

 

Photo Credit: Marybeth Bond

On the Stampede grounds visitors can choose from more than 100 food vendors selling everything from festival favorites like mini doughnuts and corn dogs to mouth-watering BBQ. For lunch I sampled numerous crazy combos like The Big Pickle Tornado, a jumbo dill pickle stuffed with a hotdog, wrapped in cheese and bacon and rolled in a tortilla, then deep-fried to a crispy perfection.

Other crowd pleasers included deep-fried Bacon-Wrapped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (surprisingly delicious), and the smoking charcoal soft ice cream in a cup (comprised of ice cream infused with black, activated charcoal, served over a chunk of dried ice) so yes, the entire creation smokes. I passed up the Prairie Oyster Balls. Yes, they are real bull testicles served on mini doughnuts and topped with blueberry jam, whipped cream and, get this, crushed nuts (pun intended). 

Not all food at the Stampede is fast food or fried. For fine dining and the best seats in the house, head to The Lazy S, an exclusive glass-enclosed lounge and restaurant on the fourth level of the Grandstand. Succulent fish, meat, or fowl entrees, creative cocktails, and outstanding wines are served directly to your seat in the loge.

Everyone’s a cowboy during the Stampede. Marybeth with the Jack Daniels team after the Official Jack Daniel’s Stampede Dinner was served at Modern Steak. The mouth-watering Alberta beef we devoured was aged 50, 150 and 200 days and cured with Jack Daniel’s whisky. A creative Jack Daniel’s cocktail accompanied each coarse.

In Search of the Perfect Steak

The Official Jack Daniel’s Stampede Dinner was served at , an elegant restaurant with a warm and modern décor. Stephen Deere, owner of Modern Steak, partnered with an Alberta ranch to buy an award-winning bull several years ago. His goal was to breed better beef and engineer the best-marbled steak. Stephen told me, “Our beef is hormone and antibiotic free and pasture raised. Happy cattle make for better steaks.” The results speak for themselves: In 2016, the restaurant won the award for the best “marbled” Angus in Canada. 

The three thick slices of mouth-watering Alberta beef we devoured were aged 50, 150 and 200 days respectively, and cured with Jack Daniel’s whisky. Only the 200-day cured beef had the fragrance of whisky, No worry, a creative Jack Daniel’s cocktail accompanied each coarse.

Cheryl Crow in concert. Photo Credit: Marybeth Bond

The Music Scene    

The Calgary Stampede is one of Canada’s largest music festivals with five stages and over 300 performers. One warm evening I joined a packed crowd at the outdoor stage to hear nine-time Grammy Award, . Shoulder to shoulder with other fans, we clapped or sang along to my favorite Cheryl Crow song All I Wanna Do (is have fun). Nashville North gives everyone a chance to kick up their heels dancing to live country music every night of the festival.

The Indian Village

A short walk from the rodeo stadium, I followed the sound of drums and singing to an Indian Powwow where youngsters and grandparents, decked out in the finest beaded regalia, danced and chanted. At the Indian Village members of five nations live in 26-hand-designed tipis during the rodeo. I was welcomed into a tipi by a grandma who sewed beads into an elaborate ceremonial costume. Interpreters provide free-guided tours daily to explain their rich heritage and culture. From the first Calgary Stampede 106 years ago, the First Nation has played a major role.

The Powwow Dance is not to be missed in the Indian Village. Photo Credit: Mike Ridewood / Calgary Stampede

 

At the Indian Village members of five nations live in 26-hand-designed tipis during the rodeo. Interpreters provide free-guided tours daily to explain their rich heritage and culture. Photo Credit: Marybeth Bond

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids Take the Stage at The Grandstand Show.

The Young Canadians, 113 performers, ages 7-19, sing and dance in the nightly show, adding raw energy, fantasy and talent to the the Grandstand Performance. Photo Credit: Tye Carson

The includes 113 performers, 7-19 years old who sing and dance, adding raw energy, fantasy and talent to the nightly show. They train all year in preparation for the 10 days of performances. This year was the 50th anniversary of the Young Canadians participating in the Grandstand Show.

Only a glass wall separates this enthralled visitor from a ing panda at the . Photo Credit:

Panda Breakfast at an Amazing Zoo  

A trip to is a must for visitors of any age. At the “Panda Breakfast” I chowed-down on a delicious buffet while learning panda facts, and then entered the zoo before opening hours, avoiding the lines, to watch the four pandas when they were alert, active and eating their own breakfasts. In addition to the pandas, standouts were the superb botanical garden, active butterfly house, grizzly bears and Madagascan lemurs.

For Art Lovers and History Buffs 

The in downtown Calgary is a “must visit” for a history buffs and art aficionados. One of the largest museums in Western Canada, it boasts over a million objects, artworks and photographs. The thoughtful displays about the First Nation people across Canada is outstanding. 

 

Marybeth with the Rodeo Princess whose mother was also a rodeo princess a few decades ago. What an honor. Like mother, like daughter..Photo Credits:
Marybeth Bond @gutsytraveler

The Calgary Stampede is billed as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, and who am I to argue? I’ve packed away my cowboy hat and boots for now, but rodeo fever is infectious and this cowgirl cannot wait for next year’s roundup.

From the first Calgary Stampede 106 years ago, the First Nation has played a major role in the rodeo, performances and cultural authenticity. Photo Credit: Tye Carson

My cowboy clothes are packed away for another year.
Photo Credits:
Marybeth Bond @gutsytraveler

NEXT YEAR: July 5-14, 2019.

 

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Category: CANADA, Full-width, full-image, Canada, Featured, Travel

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