Dubbed the greatest outdoor show on earth, the Calgary Stampede is an annual rodeo event held at Stampede Park, Calgary in Alberta, Canada. More than a million visitors attend this ten-day event each year to witness exhilarating rodeos, parades, chuckwagon racing, exhibitions, and stage shows.
The history of the Calgary Stampede
It was the Calgary District and Agricultural Society which arranged the first Exhibition back in 1886, two years after Calgary was formed. It presented an opportunity to showcase the best of the West, and allowed visitors to share knowledge about practicing agriculture. The Exhibition became an annual event.
An American performer and promotor called Guy Weadick founded the Calgary Stampede back in 1912 when he organised his first rodeo and festival. In 1919 Weadick put on another event, the Victory Stampede, a one-off extravaganza, to celebrate the return of World War I soldiers.
In 1923, the festival became an annual event called the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, following a merge with the Calgary Industrial Exhibition. Today, the Calgary Stampede is one of Canada’s largest festivals as well as one of the world’s best rodeos. The racing and rodeo events are televised across Canada.
During the event, the city of Calgary gets involved, with office buildings and shops being decorated in cowboy themes and residents dressing up in cowboy hats and other western attire. Stampede pancake breakfasts and barbecues are a tradition to be found and enjoyed at various events held across the city.
Why visit the Calgary rodeo?
If you’ve never been to a rodeo, the Calgary Stampede is an incredible experience that will not only provide fantastic high-voltage entertainment but also introduce you to what life is like on a ranch. Here are some of the things to expect when you visit:
You’ll see a range of professional cowboys and cowgirls competing across different tournaments such as bareback riding, bull riding, and barrel racing (where cowgirls race their horses around barrels). Prepare for bucking broncos and plenty of chaos!
One of the most popular events at the Calgary Stampede is chuckwagon racing, where brave and talented riders sit in semi-enclosed wagons attached to four athletic horses. You’ll be gripping the edge of your seat watching these chuckwagons race precariously around a dirt track at high speed.
All throughout each day of the event, you can watch both established and up and coming musical performers on the different stages around the grounds. In the evening, the TransAlta Grandstand Show features acrobatics, dancing, singing, and fireworks.
The Calgary Stampede is packed full to the brim of culinary delights, some deep fried, some eccentric, and all mouth-wateringly delicious! From Bacon Onion Bombs and the Spicy Chicken Arepa right through to Ice Cream Cookie Dough Sandwiches, there’ll be plenty of food to tantalise your taste buds.
Things to know before you go
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your visit to the Calgary Stampede:
- Look out for free pancake breakfasts – various places throughout the city serve up exquisite fluffy pancakes at no cost.
- Parking is limited – you may struggle to get parked up within Stampede Park, but it’s easy to get the “CTrain” (Calgary’s rail system) into the grounds instead. It runs for 24 hours per day during the Calgary Stampede.
- Wear comfortable shoes – because you’ll be doing lots of walking around the festival. You may want to invest a pair of cowboy boots to fit in with the crowd; if so, make sure you break them in first.
- Prepare for the heat – in July, the weather can get hot in Calgary, so take plenty of suncream and stay hydrated during your trip.
Book the Calgary Stampede through our dedicated Travel Specialists
If you’re planning a motorhome trip around Canada, you might be interested to know that we can book the Calgary Stampede on your behalf as an add-on to your holiday.