The Calgary Stampede, often referred to as the “Greatest Show on Earth” is celebrating 104 years this year. Every year, the Stampede provides 10 days of non-stop entertainment that combines events from the days of the wild west with modern world-class entertainment. A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of travelling with Wells Gray Tours on their Calgary Stampede tour and I would go again in a minute. Like many of you, I have travelled from the Okanagan to Calgary before, but this was my first time travelling by coach which made the trip so much more relaxed and enjoyable.
Our tour kicks off your Stampede experience by enjoying the annual Stampede Parade. There will be bands, horses, dancing and floats to entertain you as the parade moves through Calgary’s downtown core. We have reserved seating so that seeing all the entries will be easy and comfortable.
Following the parade, we head out to the Stampede grounds where there is something for everyone. The afternoon is free to watch the world’s best cowboys compete for a half million dollars in prize money in events like saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, calf roping and barrel racing. Or you can wander the midway. There are plenty of rides and games, an exhibition hall and a variety of entertainment to enjoy. Food is plentiful and varied so there is no excuse to go hungry. It will take more than an afternoon to see everything, so the next day is free to spend at the Stampede grounds if you wish. My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the day. We watched a dog show, visited the first nations village, listened to country music, watched dance exhibitions and shopped.
The afternoons grandstand performance was the day’s highlight. Watching the Chuck Wagon races gets your heart pumping as teams of horses and drivers roar around the track fighting for the prize money. As night falls, a stage magically appears complete with big screens. The music, dance, choreography and light show are first class and we were awed by the variety of different acts and how quickly everything went from being a race track to an entertainment venue. Every night the evening show finishes off with a spectacular fireworks display
Before leaving Calgary and the celebrations of the old west, a stop at Heritage Park is a must. Dressed in period costume, the local pioneers are friendly and full of stories and information about the park. Take a ride on the authentic steam train or explore the Town Square. The bakery has mouth-watering cinnamon buns that should not be missed. Steve’s favourite spot was the Gasoline Alley Museum where beautiful restored automobiles are on display.
After an overnight stay in Canmore, we will stop in Golden to visit the Northern Lights Wolf Centre. All the wolves on site have been raised in captivity and some have been used in movies. Though not tame, the wolves are used to seeing people up close and personal. Be sure to take your cameras with you!
Written by : Joan Niemeier