The greatest show on earth is a big claim, but it’s an accurate one for the annual Calgary Stampede. A full-on festival of music, food, dancing, rodeo and agriculture, here’s how you can join in next year.
The Calgary Stampede originated with informal races held by ranchers on a Friday night, when they showed off their skills at bull riding, bareback riding and roping steers.
The highlight event of chuck wagon racing began when the cooks who drove the provisions wagons held a competition to see who was fastest at packing camp, racing a wagon drawn by four horses, then setting up camp and getting a fire going at the next destination. Modern safety standards require that the tent poles are plastic, as is the barrel that represents the stove. All items need to be thrown (accurately) into the wagon at the beginning of the race before the wagon, horses and four outriders charge off around the arena.
The Calgary Stampede is now a 10-day multi-media extravaganza offering thrills, spills, laughter, tears, shock and awe aplenty to daily crowds of more than 100,000 riders, dancers, cowboys, bachelorettes, mums, dads, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, waiters, stall holders, exhibitors, media and other attendees.
But it’s not just about spectacles. For me the joy of the Stampede was the privilege of visiting Calgary when it sets out to party. And no one knows how to party like Canadians. The first hint of the Stampede is when large bales of hay and wagons begin to appear in downtown hotel foyers. Next up is the influx of colourful costumes as native Canadians, Mounties and cowboys and girls take to the streets. Local businesses join the fun with homegrown food and wine events, and there’s even a special kids’ day out. The party really kicks in at Nashville North, a huge barn with a bar, live performers and hundreds of cowgirls and cowboys doffing hats and falling in love during the two-step. A deeper cultural experience can be found in the Indian Village, resplendent with 26 tipis, where local Native Canadian people share their heritage and traditions.
The Calgary Stampede is set to roll on 8 July this year. So this offers a great opportunity to watch the fun unfold online and plan your visit in 2017, when it will run from 7-16 July. As mentioned, the fun goes on for 10 days, so it’s a perfect event around which to plan a longer stay, with say, a visit to the Rockies or Whistler beforehand, meaning you will be there for Canada Day on 1 July. After-tours from Calgary are many and varied, but jumping on board Via Rail, Canada’s national rail line can deliver you to Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City or the stunning Maritime provinces further east.
How to plan your trip?
Here are three great packages that will ensure you get the best bang for your buck in Canada, locking in prices now:
For those who are keen to get to the Stampede this year, Adventure Destinations has a great 22-day package, including the Rocky Mountaineer.
Adventure World is offering three nights accommodation, event tickets, specified activities, and a travel and information kit for $779 per person, for this year’s event.
For $877 per person, World Journeys will take you on a trip that includes, three nights accommodation, two days admission to Stampede Park, reserved seating at certain events and other inclusions.
You may also wish to visit the Calgary Stampede website to check out the range of events and activities and if you are an independent traveller, to pre-purchase tickets for 2017.
And to inspire your planning, here’s a sneak preview of what awaits you in the Indian Village
And a heat in the chuck wagon racing.