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Why wait if you love horses and a good party? I dusted off my cowboy boots and joined daredevils, music lovers, families, and wannabe cowboys, at Calgary’s Stampede Park to take part in one of the world’s largest rodeos. Spanning ten days in July, the Stampede draws over a million visitors from around the world.July 5-14, 2019.

Girl in Cowboy Hat at Calgary Stampede

Everyone wears a cowboy hat. Photo Credit: Chris Bolin / Calgary Stampede

One of the best thrills was being part of a crowd ramped up on adrenaline and the energy and enthusiasm is contagious to watch bronco busters, bull riders, steer wrestlers, women’s barrel racing, tie-down roping, horse relays and the world’s top chuckwagon races. 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 Calgary rodeo is capped off with the nightly Grandstand Show and fireworks finale that light up the sky.  

Cheryl Crow in concert.

Cheryl Crow in concert. Photo Credit: Marybeth Bond

The Calgary Stampede is one of Canada’s largest music festivals with five stages and over 300 performers.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.

A Pow Wow in the Indian Village entertains rodeo guests

A Pow Wow in the Indian Village entertains rodeo guests. Photo Credit: Mike Ridewood / Calgary Stampede

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.

The Queen of the Rodeo

The Queen of the Rodeo and Marybeth enjoying our Western gear.

Calgary Stampede is billed as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, and who am I to argue?  Many visitors travel on to the Canadian Rockies and Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper after the rodeo. It’s easy to spend your entire summer vacation in Alberta.