Monday, July 20, 2015

The Canadian Wild West

Welcome to the Canadian version of the Wild West: Calgary Stampede!

It's one of those events that you gotta add on your "do see/do" list just because it's so freggin' iconic; it's like Oktoberfest or the running of the bulls. Amb and I left Toronto on the 6th and with no plans for when we arrived, checked into our hotel, ate a late lunch and then headed into the city to check out the festivities. We are greeted by a lively, busy and festive feel populated with folk donning western apparel. Arriving in our very normal and very casual travel outfits, we made our way to Riley & McCormick to see if we could find something to help us mix into the crowd.

Getting cowboy'd up! YEEHAW!!

I suggest checking out R&M because their selection is SO extensive and there's something "fun" about it (they have a life-sized fibreglass horse out front that says, "I'm too old to be ridden!"). But seriously, they have a wall of boots and a wall of hats in different colours and materials. The price range is wide too, so don't be shy if your budget is modest and go nuts if it isn't!

That is a lot of boots... and I still only found one pair that I liked

Amb is excited to pick a hat for that lovely melon of hers!

At this point, +ADW is watching the rodeo and will watch the chuckwagon races in the evening because he's here for business (really, that's what he's here for!). We're left to our own devices and walk 8th Avenue SW because a portion of it is pedestrian fitted. We play a game of "spot the real cowboy" and make bets about which one of the cowboys we see strutting down the street is an authentic western cowboy versus the office folk and tourists who like us, are just playing cowboy.

As evening approaches, we are hungry and a little bored (it doesn't seem like many cowboys frequent the downtown) and make way to a place called the 'Palomino Smokehouse'. With our luck, a very inebriated young lady snuggles up to Amb while we're getting our IDs checked and the bouncer asks, "... is she with... you two?" To which we quickly quip, "no, no she's not!" Once she's shoed away, Amb nervously looks at the bar and then me and meekly asks, "are we still going in?". Oblivious to her apprehension, I boldly declare that we must because this place looks so authentic and ADW would so go. Plus, the bouncer has a friendly face while being physically intimidating so I feel comfortable. We spend the evening drinking (a little), snacking (a lot) and listening to live music by a local folk band named Sealegs who played with the Godfather of Yellowknife first and then went on set. They were highly entertaining and played a bunch of songs that Amb knew.


Moove on over to day 2 of our trip and we're getting ready for the evening chuckwagon races. We have lunch at the Calgary Tower to get up high and an impression of the city landscape. We have a little fun in the gift shop...
Amb getting fresh with Randy the RCMP Grizzly

ADW is always getting us into trouble...

ADW has found the hat that fits!

After lunch, we head to the Stampede grounds...

Hold onto yer hats!
Amb and I are prepared since we checked the guidebook prior, and circled the exhibits and events that interest us so we proceed to drag ADW around for our amusement...

The Ag building is full of fun exhibits for the whole family

This one's for Ariel!

Miniature donkeys like Jethro

Blacksmith demos. Point out the blacksmiths!

Miniature pony scratching him bum

Western cutting competitions

Piglet heap!

Driving demonstration

Nobody comes to Stampede without trying the food on the grounds:

Hot beef sundae

Pizza foot-long

ADW briefs us on what he's learned about the races as we're waiting and we are totally blown away:
chuckwagon racing is an equestrian rodeo sport in which drivers in a chuckwagon led by a team of Thoroughbred horses race around a track. It is a team event, led by a driver who commands a team of horses pulling the chuckwagon, and is supported by two or four outriders, each racing individual thoroughbred horses that follow the chuckwagon. Each race typically involves three or four teams, and begins with the outriders "breaking camp", by tossing two tent poles (with four outriders only) and a barrel representing a camp stove into the back of their wagon before mounting their horses and following the wagons as they complete a figure eight around two barrels before circling a race track. The first wagon to cross the finish line typically wins, although various time penalties are handed out for infractions such as a barrel being knocked over, a tent pole or stove not loaded, wagon interference or an outrider crossing the finish line too far behind his wagon driver. (Wikipedia)
There are 9 heats and the starts are madness. Try getting 16 thoroughbreds to make that figure 8 loop and then run around the track at top speed. There were a few mishaps and each race is not long. The surprise of the evening is the "evening show" that follows. Without expecting anything, we were totally blown away by the Canadiana routine that was put together. A stageful of dancers and singers all in costume and singing about... Canada! The show was fast paced and accessible for all audience members while being educational (I love getting schooled!). It also ended with a family being made Canadian citizens and a humongous pyrotechnics display. Go big or go home was certainly the point tonight.


Day 3 was a quiet affair away from Calgary while Amb went to visit family, ADW and I drove out to Banff for a trail ride into the Rockies.

I love how small the Rockies make me feel, every time.

ADW loves those paints/pintos

I'm on a cuddly horse named Guinness

Taking this photo was precarious!

Mountain on one side, drop on the other!

Who's that handsome rugged face? ;)

Spray River

After the trail ride, we make our way to Lake Louise. I didn't quite do everything I wanted to last time so this was my chance at completing my "list"... we saw Lake Moraine (did you know that this is the lake on the previous Canadian $20 dollar bill?) and Lake Louise in the summer (last time it was frozen and covered in ice and snow).

Stay tuned for the second and final part of this adventure!


  1. what an awesome trip! sounds like fun and i LOVE all the pictures - esp the Rockies and that itchy mini haha

    1. it was amazing! it was truly a vacation as i never once felt rushed to "do it all". so much horsey stuff in a whole week :D

  2. Looks like so much fun and all the sights! My family is planning on going to Vancouver later this year for family stuff/vacation, I'm looking forward to it (:

    1. the stampede is certainly all that people make it out to be :) worth checking out, if you ever have the opportunity. you'll like vancouver too! it's different than alberta but a lot of people who visit it really enjoy it. if you have time to spare, you COULD drive out to calgary and banff. it's not far and the drive is supposed to be spectacular ;)

  3. What an amazing trip! You're a great photographer. I especially like the treacherous picture on the edge of a cliff...I'm not sure I would have the guts to snap that one!

    Looking forward to part two!

    1. thanks! i love snapping photos and am also glad i didn't go tumbling down :P

  4. Looks like a fun trip! Loving all the food/hot dog pics and the fact that you did a trail ride on your holiday. :-)

    1. it was great! i really enjoyed stampede and calgary as a city too :) the people there are definitely less uptight than on the "east coast".