Billing itself as “the greatest outdoor show on earth”, the Calgary Stampede certainly sets the bar high in the realms of expectation. And like many, this promise piqued our curiosity. The annual ten day event draws over a million visitors from across the province of Alberta, the rest of Canada and the world beyond – all gathering to celebrate one of the country’s biggest and most exciting rodeo festivals.
Taking place each July, the Stampede has become synonymous with a time of celebration, where the city buzzes 24/7 and street parties at every turn create a truly electric atmosphere. Calgary becomes Cowtown; buildings everywhere are transformed with cowboy decor, people step out in traditional western gear and BBQs are stoked up across the city, ready to feed the masses. But where did this tradition emerge from? A little digging and we discovered it dates back to 1886, when the local Agricultural Society held its first fair, a bid to encourage ranchers from the east over to the west. Fast forward a few years to 1912 and a rodeo was introduced to this annual event, later becoming a victory stampede to honour the soldiers after WW1.
The Calgary Stampede of today hosts one of the world’s largest rodeos, but the city also comes alive with all sorts of spectacles, such as stage shows, concerts, exhibitions, competitions and chuck wagon racing. The whole place is geed-up to such a level that it has to be experienced to be believed. It all kicks off with a parade on the first Friday of the event; a rumpus of marching bands, carnival floats and hundreds of horses make their way through the streets alongside Cowboys, dancers, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other dignitaries showing their support. Amid the bevy of different happenings that follow from this opening parade, the rodeo is at the heart. It is the largest and most famous of its kind, and a calendar highlight for the Cowboys who perform bull riding, barrel racing and saddle bronc to name a few. Every corner of every street in Calgary will be bustling with energy from the activities taking place, with the people who have come from near and far to be part of this great Canadian tradition.
Curiosity piqued? Don’t just take our word for it; experience the hubbub of Cowtown in July for yourself. It’s something you won’t forget.