Friday, July 06, 2012

the greatest outdoor show on earth

The Calgary Stampede - the "greatest outdoor show on earth" - starts today. It is part rodeo, part agricultural fair, part is hard to describe, but it is definitely a 10 day party.

Growing up in Calgary, you go through phases with the Stampede. The first is love. As a kid, the Stampede means parades, rides, and cotton candy. It means betting on who wins the chuck wagon races using nickels and being awestruck by the fireworks. Sure, you have to wear the lost kids tag for the day...just in case...but going to the Stampede as a kid is awesome. And there's cotton candy :)

As a teenager, the Stampede means freedom. You can wander the grounds, meet new people, look at cute boys, and eat mini donuts. The first time you get to go with your friends but without your parents? The world is your oyster (plus - the cotton candy).

Then at some point, I'm convinced that every Calgarian has to go through a slight loathing of the Stampede. You see the city dressed up with its hay bales at the bank (and every other place of business), windows painted with horses and cows, random pieces of wood slapped up on every surface to make every building look more barn like and it is just embarrassing. You think "seriously...what do people think of this city? THIS is why Alberta is still thought of as a place for hicks." For 10 days people dig out their Wranglers, their boots, and their cowboy hats and walk around like they dress like that all the time. You feel humiliated that tourists come to Calgary and this is what they see.
Eventually though, you just accept it and learn to love it. You see the humour in living a stereotype every so often, figure it creates a market for bolo ties, enjoy the history, enjoy the spectacle, and even embrace sitting in the grandstand drinking Budweiser out of a plastic cup while watching "mutton busting." The traditions that seemed embarrassing are now awesome and even though it means it is impossible to find parking anywhere close to downtown - you embrace the 10 days and even look forward to it.

This is the 100 year anniversary of the Stampede - so this year will be the biggest party of them all. Everything will be bigger and better. I haven't been back to Calgary for the Stampede since I left the city in 2005. I'm really regretting not planning a trip for this week.

It all kicks of today with the parade. So happy parade day Calgary! Enjoy the fun, enjoy the party, and have a Bud in a plastic cup for me. Yahoo!


Michelle said...

As someone from Alberta (not Calgary!) I totally know what you mean. I've never been to stampede - it just seems a cliché but I'm sure I'll go someday with my son and realize my stereotypes made me miss out on a good time. I'm not quite there yet though - stampede mania still makes me cringe!

Anonymous said...

Wish you were coming out this year, but I promise to have a Bud for you! And maybe even a glass of red in the Wine Garden! Great post - I'm hoping I never hit the loathing phase! This year has just made me fall in love with this city and its heritage all over again. Thanks Guy! Yahoo!!


Heather said...

I heard a rumour that there is no more bud... now centennial beer? made by molson?

Matt will have whatever it is for you!!!

Marlene said...

Stampede is something I have to see one of these days! It sounds kind of awesome.

Anonymous said...

I had a centennial Bud today.....

Jesse - Run To The Border said...

I grew up in Lethbridge, lived in Calgary for awhile, and have never actually been to the Stampede. No particular reason why I never went, but now that I moved away I don't see myself every planning a trip "home" during Stampede week.

But hey, at least some people have learned to love it!

Leslie said...

I totally know what you mean about going through a period loathing! We went through a period of that where everything about it drove me crazy – the extra people, the crowds, etc…. But you are totally right that eventually you love it and embrace it. We do now and go down several times a year. I get a kick out of people watching and we have so much fun every time we go.