Calgary Stampede

Day 2
Sunday July 17th

Up relatively early this morning as we wanted to get to the Stampede before all the crowds. Breakfast was upstairs in the kitchen, waffles with maple syrup which everybody ate with relish. We had a discussion about driving in Canada but I was left with the impression that they weren't too sure about some of the rules themselves. Ann Marie and her husband were late 40's and only did B&B from May 'til July, they then went off travelling in their RV to the States or somewhere warm for the most of the winter.

It was only a 10 minute drive to the metro, the last station on the line and totally automated; unfortunately the machines only accepted coins so we had to backtrack to some shops and spend the first of our Canadian dollars, which are all very colourful. The trains left every quarter of an hour or so and during the 20 minute ride into town it filled up completely. We simply got off when everybody else did finding ourselves right outside the Stampede ground gates. Our tickets had all been purchased over the net so we just had to present the computer printouts.

The first section was all fun fair rides and not particularly cheap although that was not immediately apparent. The rides all required a number of tickets to go on which you bought from kiosks in books of 5 or 10. As we'd been led to believe that Canada was cheap I wasn't expecting rides to cost several pounds each. On the promise to David that we could always come back we carried on and soon found ourselves in a small grove with craft shops and parlours all around. Jude almost bought a lump of metal for Martin her brother but put it off as we didn't want to carry it around all day and we could always come back later.

Wandering further on we entered a huge great big trade hall, a sort an of ideal home affair with people from all over the world selling the latest widgets, fudge, aromatherapy, hats... yau name it they sold it. We so nearly bought a full cowskin rug for the living room floor but decided that it wasn't quite thick enough to sit on and be comfortable; it would have looked great though. We spent a couple of hours wandering up and down the aisles picking up a hat for me, t-shirts for Chris, fudge for Jude and a sand sculpture for the mantlepiece. The guys making the sculpture were Ethopian (I think), using coloured sands they claimed came all the way from the Holy Land. They were creating the works of art at the show inside bottles, pouring the diferent sands and using metal rods and various odd shape tools to create images of camels in the desert. We were so impressed we bought one.

After watching a BMX and skateboard show in the hall we went back to the plaza for lunch and lisrtened to some guitar and pipe dudes from the Andes strumming a song or two.


The Rodeo was in the main showground, unfortunately we booked so late (back in May two months before the show) that the best seats we could get were right at one end on the lowest deck, but it was still a fantastic affair. The 10 days of the Rodeo had been building up to this, the finals. The winners from the all previous days events rode off against each other for a place in the final four, these then came back to determine the grand winner in each event with a $50,000 prize.

We had bareback riding, bull riding, cattle roping and barrel racing. The cattle roping was rather out of our viewpoint as they exited on the right, chased the cattle for one or two seconds maximum before lassooing it, diving off their horse and roping its feet together. Fortunately there were multiple large video boards so we could see what was happening, otherwise we only saw the horse as the rider was diving off it or occasionally saw the calf as it escaped and ran across the stadium.

Bareback riding and bull riding were thrilling however, you could watch the guys on the video boards getting ready in the individual pens before the helpers pulled the gate away and gave the creature a slap to get it moving. they were marked on style and ferocity of the animal, therefore if you'd picked a tame animal you didn't get many points. Watching the horse buck 5 feet straight up then twist as they came down was incredible (though it was even more incredible that the riders hats normally stayed on). If the rider was thrown (always a good bit) there were two other mounted cowboys to go and catch the horse as it would race across the stadium to get away.

Bull riding was very similar except that you only had to stay on the bull for 7 seconds to get a score; also if you were thrown the bull didn't always run but sometimes turned around to try and gore you. There were cowboys in red coats whose job it was to run in front of the bull distracting it giving the rider time to get up off the ground and escape, of course the cowboys then had to run for it. The bull riding was so difficult that out of the 10 competitors (all previous winners remember) only three managed to stay on for the seven seconds, so the final when it came at the end of the show looked like being be shorter than planned. As it turned out the grand final was longer than expected as during the first round none of the three qualifiers managed to stay for 7s on so they changed bulls and all tried again, once more they were all thrown, though one managed 6.5 seconds. The orgainsers were going to arrange a third attempt but at that point the riders all declared themselves too tired and therefore it was too dangerous so they ended up awarding the prize of $50,000 to the best qualifier.

With the show over we left the stadium for something to eat but came back in the evening for the chuck wagon races, this time we had seats high in the centre stand for a great view.


Chuck Wagon Races

Chuckwagon races are a recreation of the race across America to new lands. Each team comprises a wagon, a stove on the ground, some poles and four outriders. The outriders start on the ground one holding the team in place the others picking up the stove and poles, chucking them in the back of the wagon then jumping on their horses and trying to catch up the wagon as it loops around some barrels and races off the down the course. The riders had to finish within 200 yards of the wagon when it crossed the line or they inurred a time penalty, there was an additional 5s penalty (effectively knocking you out of the race) for knocking over a barrel. These things were fast, it was only one lap and they went full tilt all the way, the outriders actually had a tough time catching the wagons.

The races lasted until gone 10.00pm by which time it was quite dark. A finale with fireworks followed but Jude was suffering from sleep deprivation so we decided to head home.

Throwing on the stoves as the whistle goes

Those behind the giant screen can't have had a good view

Final Straight


©2005 Rob Hayward