03/15/2011 11:47 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Calgary Stampede

There's a Reason It's Called the Wild West
Calgary is the largest city in the province of Alberta, Canada about 50 miles east of the Canadian Rockies. As the third largest municipality in the country, it is a city acutely aware of its responsibility in the areas of environmental protection and sustainability. Their program Respect for the Earth and all People, (REAP), holds an annual Down to Earth Week, a celebration of sustainable living. Calgary has received countless awards from the Canadian Education Association for environmental excellence, sustainable design and their work with the Calgary Stampede, known as the Greatest Show on Earth. A city of vibrant economic growth, it is a great destination for winter sports and ecotourism. But now we're thinking summer and every July since 1912 Calgary proudly hosts the Stampede. This year the dates are July 8-17, so...

Hang on to your Stetson, Pardner! Get ready for excitement, tension and exceptional drama. This rootin', tootin', rip-roaring, down-and-dusty rodeo is ten days of bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, saddle broc riding, tie-down roping and more fun than should be legally allowed!

How the West was Once
Because of the unique origin of rodeo, it has a fascinating history. From the vaqueros to the American cowboy, rodeo history is filled with interesting characters and a multi-cultural mix of customs and practices. At the heart of rodeo, however, is a sport which arose out of cattle herding and was based on the skills required of working ranch hands. A highlight of the Calgary Stampede and one of the most exciting events unique to this rodeo -- Chuck Wagon Racing. It is nothing short of heart-stopping! Also, the Stampede's bucking stock is a rare and highly respected breed; their bulls are a hard-hitting, no-nonsense bunch that challenge the best cowboys in the world.

I had the fun-filled pleasure of attending the Calgary Stampede last year. The citywide celebration welcomed over 1.5 million visitors and more than 2 million are expected to attend this July. The moment I de-planed, I just knew that this experience was going to be something really special. The airport was filled with happy, partying people and live, good western music with songs like
Ghost Riders in the Sky and that perennial Hank Williams' favorite, There's a Tear in my Beer.

We began our adventure at Rope Square, where hundreds had already gathered to line dance, enjoy the flap jack flip and play a traditional game called the Hat Stomp. You can probably imagine what this involves. Retrieving our flattened and dusty cowboy hats, we hit the Stampede Midway at the fairgrounds. This place has enough to impress even the biggest thrill seekers, from hair-raising rides to challenging games, live music, agriculture shows and hundreds of shopping and food experiences - something here for the whole family.

The Wow Factor
Soon, the reason we were here -- the rodeo! We witnessed amazing events: bronc riders exploding out of their chutes and being shaken like Margaritas in a blender, calf roping done in seconds and with no harm to the animal, and bulls roaring into the arena, their riders twisting, turning, flipping sky high and trying to stay on for the required 8 seconds. Eight short seconds, piece of cake, right? Not if you're on a flinging, jumping 2,000 pound crazed creature who wants nothing more than to get you off his back! But stay on and ride the cowboys did, and with élan and class.

Grandstand Show Spectacular
As the sun set, magic filled the night and the 90-minute outdoor musical extravaganza began. It was nonstop entertainment by internationally acclaimed guest artists at once dazzling and explosive, as the show concluded with an amazing award-winning fireworks finale! It was fitting end to a spectacular event. So, all you cowboy and cowgirl wanna-bes, pull on some boots, put on a Stetson and come on up! The Calgary Stampede is sure to transport you from the world as you now know it!

If You Go:
Calgary Stampede Ticket Information ,
Tourism Calgary,
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