Every year in early July the eyes of the world (or so we think) descend upon Calgary, home of “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” – The Calgary Stampede. It is the time of year when Calgarians hang up their suits in favour of cowboy boots, jeans and cowboy hats for 10 days. It is the time of year when many hard-working corporate types (me included) have an almost free ticket to attend as many pancake breakfasts as we can, have too many “liquid” lunches and skip work to find that exclusive party that everyone “must” attend. The city is full of energy and excitement and downtown Calgary seems to be where the action happens outside Stampede Park. Outdoor parking lots are covered with tents and converted into extensions of bars and restaurants, green park spaces become spontaneous concert venues and Stephen Avenue Mall which is a pedestrian walkway from 6am to 6pm, becomes a place for street vendors, marching bands, food carts and the most amazing place to people watch.
I had promised myself I would behave and try to just enjoy the Stampede from a distance as it has been a long few months and I am more than ready to just relax, unwind and maybe even do some catching up at work. Well, unfortunately since I work in the heart of the Oil & Gas Industry, the fever was contagious. I resisted for the first 5 days and kept my head at home and at work. I even took advantage of “parade day” and stayed home to make up for some procrastination that had been happening over the past month. (The majority of the offices in the Core shut down for the day as the parade route winds through the streets and it is next to impossible to even make it into the buildings!)
The Stampede lasts 10 days and while I managed to stay somewhat focused for 5 of those, I had purchased tickets to NKOTBSB concert months ago so knew Wednesday afternoon would start my 2011 Stampede fun. (For those of you who weren’t into “boy bands” in the 80’s and early 90’s, NKOTBSB is New Kids on the Block and The Backstreeet Boys.) While I only managed to secure seats in the building (let’s just say they were “nosebleed seats”) I was excited just the same. It also helped that I invited a girlfriend of mine who also works in Oil & Gas and happens to know the “right” people which meant after the opening act, we found ourselves in a private box suite beside the stage. It was an amazing concert and one I won’t soon forget!
Thursday I headed to the Fairgrounds with my co-workers to take in a catered lunch (Alberta beef – yum!) and an afternoon at the Rodeo followed by drinks at Nashville North. We did our best to get some work done in the morning but I was still singing from the concert the night before and running on only 3 hours sleep. The atmosphere of the Stampede is so electric I had no problems staying awake to enjoy the afternoon with my co-workers as well as wandering around the Grounds to check out the rides, carnival games, and wander into the Round-up Centre where there is no shortage of booths selling everything from belt buckles to Shamwows!
One of the main attractions of the Calgary Stampede is the food at the Midway. Every year there is something new that is usually deep-fried. We’ve had deep-fried Coke, deep-fried cheesecake and deep-fried Oreos. This year it was deep-fried Pop Tarts and the Donut Hamburger (imagine a fully loaded burger except the bun is a giant glazed donut!). I skipped those in favour of my fave – deep-fried pickles! There is the must haves every year as well which include AJ’s favourite – cotton candy, and my Mum’s fave – candy apples. I also spotted mac and cheese pizza, pork parfait and of course, corn dogs. There is NO shortage of artery clogging, fat welcoming foods to go around.
Although I only got caught up in 2 days of Stampede excitement, I escaped just in time this year as I write my blog from the plane on my way to Phoenix. Here’s to counting down the days until Stampede 2012! Yeeeeeeeee- haw!!!