Aah, Stampede time in Calgary! For nine days in July the entire city forgets about stress, drudgery and morals in one great big citywide party.
It all begins in a city nicknamed Cowtown, where the vehicle of choice is a pick-up truck; the hockey stadium is shaped like a saddle; and the major accolade for visitors is not the key to the city, but a white cowboy hat.
Not surprising then that 51 weeks of the year are really just considered the lead up to Stampede Week. In fact, ‘stampeding’ is actually a verb here. It’s ostensibly about the rodeo and chuckwagon races, but the real excitement’s generated in the midway, with its rides and games, and in the bars where pretty much anything goes.
That atmosphere downtown right now is electric. Top executives have abandoned their suits in favour of Western duds, including jeans, cowboy boots, plaid shirts and stetsons; even the police officers and paramedics are sporting cowboy hats. It’s like a great big costume party where everyone gets to pretend to be a cowboy. And the streets are filled with overexcited stampeders carrying cheap prizes and talking in funny voices. Yeehaw!
We’ve got nightly fireworks, free pancake breakfasts all over the city, corn dogs (a disgusting hot dog deep fried in batter which is apparently a Stampede essential) and just about anything else deep fried you can imagine, including mars bars, pop tarts and coke (I know, I’m not sure how you deep fry a liquid either).
On the flip side – if you think Vegas has a reputation for forgiving and concealing debauchery it’s a tea party compared to the Stampede.
Yes, a certain sub-section of Calgarians seem almost proud of the motto “drink triples, see double and think single”. Some bars operate a ‘wedding ring check’, and you might suppose the telling white dent left on the wedding ring finger would be a problem – but only if anyone cared.
They call it The Greatest Show on Earth which seems a little opimistic, but then as Edmonton calls itself The City of Champions I guess anything goes.
This year I announced with some pleasure that I would be foregoing Stampede – the children are quite old enough to go with their friends, and definitely don’t want old people cramping their style. Stampeding as a parent consists mostly of standing around in the scorching sun anmid the stench of sweaty horses and people, watching the children go on rides for hour upon hour, followed by a trip home on an overcrowded train with a bunch of overtired, sugar-hyped offspring.
I have surprised myself, though, by rather missing it. So A-Stampeding we will go! Hubby and I are off this afternoon, sans kids, to laugh at would-be cowboys and eat some junk. Fun!