Being born and raised in Alberta, I am a Calgary Stampede veteran. So I always get a little twinge of pride when someone new to the city asks the question “what is this Stampede thing all about?” This year I have the pleasure of playing Stampede guide to someone who has never experienced the World’s Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
Michael comes to Cowtown all the way from London (England, not Ontario). And the whole concept of Honky Tonk and hay bales for 10 days straight is a little foreign to him to say the least. So I have committed to show him the best of what a traditional Stampede has to offer from the perspective of someone that has done it 30 some odd times, clichés and all.
But before we can hit the town we had to make sure that we looked the part. So I took Michael out for a True Stampede right of passage, I took him to Lammles.
Coming up with this Stampede itinerary for Michael and I got me thinking about the Stampede experience, and how to show someone a well rounded, untypical, enjoyable time while avoiding the boot blisters and port-a-potties (well, most of them).
Here is my list of the top 5 for any first Stampede Experience:
Start at the Beginning
Starting your Stampede week by watching the parade is like bowing to your partner before you Dosey Doe. It is a wholesome way to take in all that Stampede is about to offer you over the next 10 days. You can take your new boots for a spin while you slowly acclimatize to things like large crowds, the smell of horse poop, and too much food too early in the morning.
Do the Traditional Day
A traditional day at the Stampede should start with a Pancake Breakfast, but if you have a smoothie instead you might thank yourself later. Either way a full day at the Grounds will include the Rodeo, free entertainment, rides on the midway, the air conditioned Exhibition Hall and usually concludes with a sunset trip on the Skyride (preferably with no boots)
* Note on the skyride: never walk directly under the skyride, you will get spit on. Oh the charms of the midway!
Do The Chucks
The Chuckwagons are a staple of the stampede experience. It is unlike anything you will see anywhere else in the world. I like to watch them from the standing section of the tarmac. You get a full understanding of the literal horsepower when you stand so close to the track. Plus, it is a great spot to bump into people and feel hilariously cool in your tight pants and painful boots (don’t forget to make a friendly wager on the Chucks too).
Take a Break
About 5 days in you will come to realize a few things: beer isn’t the refreshing friend it was just a few short days ago, the straw bales are not a comfort refugee, and your new ropers that are supposed to be the most comfortable boots you own, as soon as they are worn in, are definitely not worn in yet. This is the time to take a break. Go to an air-conditioned museum, wear normal clothes, leave town, go to the mountains, book a massage, eat a salad, go to bed at 9pm. With a fresh look, rested feet, and a renewed appetite for beef, you will attack the final frontier! Stampede is not a sprint, but a roller coaster marathon.
A huge part of Stampede is the food. It’s the one time of year that I set aside my picky, locally sourced, organic, whole food sensibilities and I just eat. Usually it involves the novelty of eating something that is a foot long or longer, curiously deep-fried or both. Whatever you eat I promise it will be memorable, just don’t go directly to the midway rides after. Same 30 minutes rule applies as swimming, but for different precautions.
What ever you do get out there. Take it all in. You have 355 days to recover. Yahoo.
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