Never approach a bull from the front...
The forecast for Calgary City is 25 degrees Celsius and I hope I'm not too hot as I don a long-sleeved shirt and jeans. My foldable hat has been used every day since arriving here last Sunday. My Calgarian friend, Pat, has taken me to many wonderful places, each with a special story of their own, but today is the day I've been looking forward to since first deciding to spend my 60th birthday at the Calgary Stampede.
As we alight from the train, I can hear the buzz of excitement from the nearby entrance gate. Tickets are presented and we are waved through by security. This entrance is quiet, but Pat has an ulterior motive as we purchase tickets for the skyride. She wants me to see the whole site from the air before we start on our Stampede Experience. A ski lift takes us high over the top of the park, and as we look around, it is possible to view the activity already in action. An engine revs and a motorbike pounds on the manufactured hill as it flips and lands on its two tyres. Applause and the next one takes its turn. Daredevils on motorbikes are not my 'thing', but from this high perspective, I can appreciate their dedication to the sport.
After landing at ground level again, we push through the already-forming crowds to visit the First Nations village by the river. Immediately crossing the river, the noise of the amusements die down as we wander through the tipis. A tipi is a tent, traditionally made of animal skins upon wooden poles, and distinguished by the smoke flaps at the top of the structure. The tipis erected here are canvas and are used for ceremonial purposes.
I enter one and watch a young First Nations girl threading beads to decorate clothes. Her intricate work is beautiful. She also talks about native food and how they different native foods are preserved.
I meet a group of RCMP, or Mounties, as we exit the First Nations Village. Of course, they want a photo with an Aussie!
Carefully watching the time, we wander through the Stampede site, familiarising ourselves with the various arenas and exhibition areas. At 1:30pm, the rodeo begins and I don't want to miss a moment.
It is already very hot and the air is thick with the lunchtime smells of popcorn, deep-fried chicken, chips and other deep-fried sweet treats like...
...Kit Kats and cookie dough.
Chicken and beers in hand, we enter the arena and sit in our designated seats at one end. The Police were out in force, keeping crowds under control.
The view is excellent, as the National Anthem is sung. Everyone stands, hats removed from heads as many in the crowd lustily sing the words.
Then the events get under way. They start and finish like clockwork, one following after the other; bareback riding, calf roping, and bull-riding. An eruption of cheers are heard when a young four-year-old boy rounds up a herd of horses and ponies. As the surface is raked and prepared for the next events, we are entertained by bands, clowns and more.
The second half of the programme is no less exciting. More bronco-riding, barrel-racing, bull-riding, and the crowd favourite, miniature pony riding. All too soon, it ends. I couldn't believe that two-and-a-half hours could pass so quickly.
We visit the exhibition area and view art, quilts, cake decorating, and craft. We find some seats and buy a cheese platter. I find the Canadians some of the friendliest and most generous people I've ever met, after returning to our table with a glass of wine a woman in the queue bought for me, simply because I'm Australian!
We do return to one of the other arenas to watch the heavy-pull and more. This is one of the best days ever. I have achieved what I set out to do - visit the Calgary Stampede for my 60th birthday. It lives up to every expectation I ever had....and more.
TITLE QUOTE: Anon
ACCOMMODATION: Private Home, Calgary, Canada
We visited the Calgary Stampede on July 12th, 2019.