Visit western Canada’s Calgary in July, and you could be one of the roughly one million visitors a year that heads for ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’: the Calgary Stampede. This world-famous annual event features rodeos, chuckwagon racing, dog shows, live music, thrill rides, parades and all-out boot-scootin’ entertainment.
For 10 action-packed summer days, the city of Calgary buzzes with energy as this historic event, one of the largest festivals in Canada, unfolds for the delight of locals and tourists alike. The Calgary Stampede has been taking place for more than 100 years and is a dizzying celebration of the country’s western heritage, rodeo traditions, First Nations peoples and local agriculture. The first day of the festival kicks off with the Stampede Parade, complete with floats, marching bands, rodeo riders and cultural groups.
But the feel-good spirit is just getting going. For each day of the festival, hundreds of volunteers host free pancake breakfasts all around the city (called the Stampede Breakfast) for residents and tourists to enjoy. The tradition traces back to 1923, when a friendly chuckwagon driver named Jack Morton would invite passing locals to join him for breakfast. After the sun sets on a day of rodeo shows and agricultural displays, the ever-popular chuckwagon races (actually, thoroughbred-horse-led wagon races) get underway. So get gussied up your finest jeans, cowboy boots and 10-gallon hat and join the crowds cheering on their favourite drivers.
To get to Stampede Park, take the CTrain to Victoria Park/Stampede LRT (light-rail transit) station or hop in a taxi to the main gates. The Calgary Stampede happens the second week of July and is the city’s biggest attraction, so be sure to book accommodation well in advance to avoid disappointment.