This is the second part in Trishna Patel’s five-part series on the Calgary Stampede. Check out the series homepage here, the first part here, the third part here, the fourth part here, and the final part here.
Continued from The Stampede Bucket List, Day 1…
1. Lazy S lounge
When it comes to premium seating at the Stampede, it doesn’t get much better than the Lazy S lounge. Located on the fourth level of the Grandstand (across from the Infield Suites), the western-themed lounge is an exclusive restaurant with a massive outer deck area that supports individual seating and dining.
There were times at the Lazy S in which I was so busy mingling and enjoying my gourmet food and drink that I forgot about the incredible view in front of me. (None lasted too long, as the crowd erupted every few minutes to cheer on the next bullrider.)
Tip: Reserving a table at the Lazy S isn’t cheap, but here are three value days at the festival you can surely take advantage of: Family Day, Western Heritage (Senior) Day, and Kids’ Day. More information is available here, with even more to come in the spring of 2016.
2. Rodeo: behind the scenes
Unlike the famous saying, this was my first rodeo. So needless to day I was very excited about learning about specific rodeo events, their rules and the ins-and-outs of cowboy culture. The ten days of tournament-style competition all come to a head on Showdown Sunday, when the final winner cashes in the biggest one-day prize in all of professional rodeo.
Note: The Stampede is also the world’s “richest” rodeo, and one of the only ones to fly in all cowboys and their families.
There are six events: Bareback, Bull Riding, Barrel Racing, Saddle Bronc, Steer Wrestling, and Tie Down Roping. A big thank you to Travel Alberta for organizing a behind-the-scenes” tour, a rare chance to watch the rodeo athletes prepare before some of these competitions.
Witnessing the cowboys interact with their stock just moments before they rode out from the chutes was quite possibly one of the most intense and cool (for lack of a better term) things I’ve experienced.
Note: Though it’s an opportunity only granted to the media, I wanted to mention it because the connection and respect these men have for the animals offered a refreshing reminder of what the Stampede is truly about.
3. Touring the Midway
After you’ve gotten your full share of the rodeo, spend some time roaming the Midway. There’s so much to do and there’s something for everyone. Go at your own pace and visit the attractions that interest you. For me, not adhering to any sort of schedule worked best. That said, I’d recommend:
- Midway food — The Midway food tour has everything from wood-fired super-sized meats, to jalapeño poutine covered donuts, to deep-fried, bacon-wrapped cheese pies. Look at the all the food options before deciding on what to eat. You’ll want to make sure and try your favorites before you get too full. It’s pretty simple though. Come hungry, leave happy, and bring stretchy pants.
- The Etsy Market — The Etsy Market made its debut at the Stampede’s BMO Center this past year. The online store known for its crafty, handmade and vintage trinkets now has a physical booth at the festival. The booth featured more than dozen Calgarian artists and was a great opportunity to meet local businesses. I often learn the most about a travel destination from personal interactions like these.
- The Western Oasis — The Western Oasis is what it sounds like. Located behind the wine gardens, it’s a sanctuary of sorts, promoting western heritage and lifestyle through art, photography, music, and wine (among others) in a charming garden setting.
Tip: Go to the Western Oasis. I was tired and almost didn’t. But if you are a bit low on energy, the Western Oasis is exactly what you need.
For more on the Stampede, head back to the series homepage.
Tickets for next year’s Stampede (July 8-17, 2016) are on sale October 5th 2015 at calgarystampede.com. Buy in advance for better seat selection, premium seating and potential discounts. Contact the extremely helpful folks at Travel Alberta and Tourism Calgary for inquires for large groups (20 or more) and for additional help with planning your itinerary. And of course, tell ‘em Trish sent you!