By Habeeb Salloum
The annual Calgary Stampede is by far that city’s greatest tourist attraction. Held at the beginning of July every year, the Stampede is a renowned rodeo that celebrates the city’s ranching heritage. Every year more than one million attend this largest cowboy contest in the world.
For ten days the people of Calgary, a city of over 1.1 million, put away their fashionable clothing and join with visitors to make merry in the exotic aura of the Old West, perpetrating the memory and ways of the western pioneers. In this cleanest, friendliest, and safest city in Canada, it is a celebration of western hospitality and fun on the edge of the Canadian Rockies.
A few of the Stampede’s attractions, like free pancake breakfasts and the Stampede Parade, are held downtown. Spectators line the parade route, thrilled with marching bands, floats, heavy horses, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, natives in traditional dress, and the Stampede Queen and Princesses.
However, the main events take place at Stampede Park, located in the heart of the city. When you enter the gates of Stampede Park, you enter a world of wonder and “Wild West” excitement.
Inside there are an authentic Indian village, a re-created frontier town, a fabulous selection of the world’s most interesting comedy acts, a fine selection of eateries, concerts and dancing performed on free entertainment stages, horse competitions, agricultural displays, the Midway with its crowd-pleasing games and rides, a dazzling array of exhibits, a casino, a Western Showcase featuring the culture and arts of the Canadian West, and a myriad of other amazing allurements.
However, two events top all the other attractions: the afternoon Rodeo and the evening Chuck Wagon Races. The Rodeo is the world’s most prestigious, with $2 million in prize money, and is believed to be the wildest and richest daredevil show to be found anywhere. Bold and skillful cowboys ride bareback bulls and wild horses, rope calves with split-second precision, milk untamed cows, and wrestle fierce steers while fearless rodeo clowns perform their crazy antics. It is a three-hour non-stop spectacle of men challenging beasts for supremacy.
The evening’s entertainment commences with the world-famous Chuck Wagon Races with $1 million in prize money. Probably the most thrilling sport known to man, these races are considered to be the highlight of the whole Stampede. The races explode in an all-out dash to the finish line in an amazing contest of nerves and horsepower. Thundering around a 3/8 of a mile track, they ignite the thousands of excited fans into frenzy — a page from western history, coming sensationally alive.
Immediately following the Chuck Wagon Races, hundreds of comedians, dancers, singers, international acrobats, and world-class musicians entertain and delight the crowd on a gigantic stage in a mammoth 90-minute Grandstand Show — an exciting variety spectacular. Fabulous costumes, glittering lights, and lavishly choreographed musical productions are included in a Vegas-style show featuring young Canadians and well-known star performers from around the globe.
It all ends with a spectacular fireworks display, a brilliant finale to an exuberant and memorable evening that captures the rousing spirit of Canada’s western pioneers and caps the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”
A mere 60-minute drive to the west and you are in the heart of the breathtaking splendor of the Canadian Rocky Mountains enjoying the world-famous Banff National Park and the unforgettable allurements of Lake Louise. This is what the Stampede is all about. As one of its officials explained some years back, “The Calgary Stampede is much more than an exciting world class event and destination … it’s an attitude of true western hospitality that engulfs the whole city.”
For information about Calgary: http://www.visitcalgary.com
For Calgary Stampede information: http://calgarystampede.com/
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