29 MAY 2015: The next Calgary Stampede, the legendary 10-day cowboy bonanza better known as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” is just over a month away.

And as far as one tourism sales manager says, agents have had first dibs on group sales bookings which began last October. “We have travel trade rates on tickets starting in October. (Agents) can block them with no deposit and hold it right up to the middle of May,” said Lindsay Jardine, tourism sales manager with the Calgary Stampede and adds full prices went into effect after May 15.

But if you haven’t had time to book, tickets are still available. For instance, if you want to experience the midway and free entertainment its $18 at the gate and from what I hear you can experience a ton of shows and exhibits with that.

So how do you survive the Calgary Stampede?

“Pace yourself,” smiles Jennifer Booth, the Calgary Stampede’s PR manager in Toronto recently with other stampede reps at an industry event cosponsored by Travel Alberta and Tourism Calgary that was appropriately held at the Rock’n’Horse Saloon in the entertainment district.

Parade time

The big daddy is the parade opener. Grab a lawn chair, or hitch yourself to one of the designated bleachers for a fee, or tune in and watch the parade live on TV if you can’t be there. Watch stampede royalty such as the queen and princess, and the Indian Princess representing the tribes of Treaty 7 at the Indian Village, not to mention the 700 horses on parade day.

Yes, there will be plenty pooper scooper troopers out that day.

Survivor tip: Hydrate and wear a wide-brimmed straw hat to let in the breeze. “If you wear a hat just know you’re committed to it,” adds Jardine, hinting at the huge hat head syndrome that results from wearing the 10 gallon doozies.

Activities

There’s the tried and true with the rodeos and chuckwagons but you can also expect some adrenalin pumping at the freestyle motocross show and other extreme sporting events.

It seems the Calgary Stampede has also claimed the spot as one of Canada’s largest music festivals.

“Every year we try to change it up a bit with music,” says Booth about the musical component. Stevie Wonder will headline the final night of the 2015 Virgin Mobile Concert Series among other A-listers.

Then there are rising stars like Canada’s own Trinity Bradshaw who will be opening for John Michael Montgomery for the music show known as Nashville North. Last year’s Nashville North Starwinner was Alberta native, Dylan Gillett. Trinity also performed some good ol’ boot stomping, hand clapping tunes for us that night.

Survivor tip: Wear well worn, broken-in cowboy boots and not the fancy new ones. “It’s a huge area so you will be doing a lot of walking, and it’s hot,” says Lindsay.

Food

To give us an idea on the stampede foodie fest, we were treated to good old fashioned western hospitality, a.k.a. plenty of food at the Rock’n’Horse Saloon. Big bowls of macaroni salad, a dug-out canoe that had yummy melted cheese dips and nachos, dinosaur-sized BBQ’d ribs, chicken wings, pizza slices and yes even the acclaimed donuts from Jelly Modern Doughnuts were to be had.

“They just opened in Toronto,” Jardine tells me of the Calgary transplant as we stare at the sinful carbs with a vanilla-icing topping shaped into mini-cowboy hats.

On the Calgary Stampede culinary circuit, the corn dog reigns but so do some other luxe-style nibblies.

For the moneyed set, there’s the most expensive hot dog in the world which Booth says has been crowned by the Guinness Book of World Records.

“It’s the Dragon Dog.” For $100 bucks you get a foot long bratwurst infused with cognac that sells for $3000 a bottle and then smothered in Kobe beef with truffle oil and fresh lobster tail, some more truffles and ricotta cheese. “It’s a pretty stellar hot dog.”

Or feast on the lobster corn dog. “(For this) we replaced the hotdog with a lobster tail,” she laughs.

Survivor tip: Pace yourself.

The Bronze people

Don’t get squirmy when you see a cast of buffed bronzed people (not with tans either) walking about. This cast is part of the Western Showcase, an exhibit at the BMO Centre that’s part of a bigger exhibit known as the Western Oasis.

“It’s an indoor calming exhibit with 100,000 square feet of western art and that’s where you will see a lot of bronze sculptures and bronze sculptured people,” says Booth and adds bronze is huge in the show. “It’s the trophy and it’s a real honour to win,” she says referring to the competitions in the chuckwagon and the rodeo.

Survivor tip: Suntan lotion and Ray-Bans.

Finale

Folks who attend the Calgary Stampede can stick around for some post cowboy fun. Outfitters like Banff Trail Riders lead tours to help stir up that inner urban cowboy wrestling inside.

“We’re the largest outfitter in Alberta with 300 horses and we do trail rides from one hour to six days in duration staying in lodges and tents,” says Jonathan Welsh with Banff Trail Riders.

With the stampede you get to see the stampede and how the cowboys are but then with Banff Trail Riders you actually become a cowboy. The Calgary Stampede runs July 3-12.


For more travel info see http://www.calgarystampede.com

READY FOR THE STAMPEDE
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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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