30 January 2018 by Emma Sanger-Horwell
Although the Calgary Stampede is easily the most popular rodeo event in the world, it’s so much more besides: a celebration of Western heritage and First Nations culture, a thrilling theatrical production, Canada's largest music festival, and, for ten days, a city in its own right. Each July, 1.2 million visitors from around the world descend to lively Calgary in Alberta’s southwest. It's an unabashed celebration, from high-energy bucking broncos, colourful parades and performances by music legends to parades, amusement park attractions and wood-fired barbecue beef.
If this all sounds appealing, a visit to the world famous Calgary Stampede could easily be combined into a Canada holiday. In neighbouring British Columbia, take a ride on the incredible Rocky Mountaineer – one of the planet's great rail journeys – or use the city as a springboard into the twin national-park delights of Banff and Jasper, home to unique wildlife, picture-perfect lakes and cragged peaks. Alternatively, consider a standalone trip:
The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth
While the rest of Canada is known for its unassuming, easy-going outlook, Calgary is different; it’s unapologetically proud of its Western heritage. Beside the main rodeo event – complete with everything from barrel racing to steer wrestling – there’s world-class agricultural competitions and art-and-craft exhibitions. It all culminates in a spectacular "Evening Grandstand Show" – a theatrical production on a grand scale. It's all volunteer-supported and not-for-profit, fostering an infectious Western spirit that plays across both hosts and attendees.
For over half a century, the 23,000-acre Stampede Ranch in east-central Alberta has produced the animals that have carried the Stampede's banner to the rodeo world. It’s supplied some 400 horses and 80 bulls to the Stampede and has been the home of many a rodeo champion over the years; its stock has won titles internationally.
Its bucking legend, six-time world champion and Canadian bareback horse of the year, Grated Coconut is the superstar of the ranch. This 725-kilogram bronc is a legend in the rodeo scene. He was foaled in 1997 as part of the Stampede's "Born to Buck" programme that has, over the years, made the Stampede one of the premier producers of rodeo rough stock in the world. While he’s happily retired, his offspring ("little coconuts") continue to compete and win international rodeo titles.
Richest ride in rodeo
The Calgary Stampede is one of the world's most prestigious rodeo spectacles. Every summer, twenty of the world's top competitors in each of the six major events – saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and ladies barrel racing – come together to vie for the chance to win $2 million in prize money and the title of Calgary Stampede Champion.
Legend of the stampede
Chuckwagon racing is what NASCAR is to Formula One; it’s a raucous, fast-paced spectacle that has a history as old and as colourful as the West itself. And, the first time the event was repurposed as a spectator sport, was at the 1923 Calgary Stampede. Today, 36 wagons compete in nine heats – four wagons and 16 outriders in each. The total prize money is $1m, which includes a sudden death final "Dash for the Cash" with a prize purse of $100,000.
City within a city
Every year, Stampede City becomes the third largest city in Alberta. It features everything you would expect to see in an urban centre – restaurants, cafés, medical services, logistics team, recycling plant, garbage collectors, shopping centres, nightclubs... The list goes on. There's even a selection of diverse communities, including vintage Weadickville and the Indian Village.
A music festival every day
The Calgary Stampede is one of Canada's largest music festivals and features some of the world’s biggest entertainers. Artists perform on several stages throughout Stampede Park, including the giant Saddledome. In the past, its drawn headliners such as Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift, Nickleback, Janet Jackson and Reba.
Experience First Nations culture
The Calgary Stampede's Indian Village offers a wide range of opportunities for visitors to gain insight into Canada's First Nations' culture. Representing the five tribes of the Treaty 7 that established reserves for the country’s indigenous peoples, there are open tipis, native dances, cultural exhibits and tent raising contests.
Inspired? Alongside our classic Calgary Stampede holiday, we've picked out a few extra itinerary below that combine perfectly with the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth". Please also don’t hesitate to get in contact with one of our Canada specialists today. For more information, fill out an enquiry form or call us on 020 7590 0610.