Calgary Stampede – part 2
As soon as the parade had concluded, we walked the 15 blocks to the Stampede Arena to watch the rodeo. Bareback and saddle broncs, tie-down roping, bull riding, and ladies’ barrel racing – it was everything that I’d hoped for and expected, and so exciting to watch.
In the bareback and saddlebronc events, points out of 100 are awarded for the rider’s control during the ride and his spurring technique. If the rider touches the horse with his free hand, or fails to stay on the horse for eight seconds, he’s disqualified.
Each day of the rodeo tournament has $17 500 in prize money up for grabs, with a top prize in the finals of $100 000. It seems you can make serious money as a skilful cowboy.
It was a scorchingly hot day, and when a brief rainstorm arrived those of us not sitting under cover rushed inside. We watched the action on TV monitors, browsed the shops, and soon afterwards went back out into the fresher air once the rain had stopped.
The tie down roping was equally exciting. It’s a real partnership between rider and horse. The calf gets a head start, and the rider chases it, ropes it (hopefully – the first three contestants failed!) and relies on his horse to stop dead in a single stride. He dismounts on the run to reach the calf and tie three legs. The horse, meanwhile, works to keep the rope taut. This all has to be done as quickly as possible for maximum points, after which arena helpers free the calf.
Bull riding is the climax of the rodeo. Again, the cowboy rides bareback, but without spurs, holding on with one hand to a braided rope looped around the bull’s girth. He has to stay on for eight seconds, and loses marks for touching the bull or himself with his free hand during the ride.
The Stampede is huge! Impossible to see and do everything in the two days we were there – the whole Stampede goes on for ten. The fairground part was a much larger part of the Stampede than we’d expected.
And as for the food on offer – well, before you ask, no – we didn’t “indulge” in any of these offerings!
The charms of deep fried cheesecake (who first thought of dunking perfectly good cheesecake into hot oil??) passed us by. And as for deep-fried Kool-Aid …
Paul enjoyed Poutine#, however.
Fortunately for me, we also found probably the only healthy meal option on the whole site – fresh stirfried noodles and vegetables – along with a patch of shade in which to sit and eat it.
The second main attraction of the Stampede is the chuck wagon racing and evening show, which we went to on our second day.
The chuckwagon races take place nowadays with lightweight wagons (which were basically adverts on wheels) and specially bred thoroughbred horses – I must admit, I was slightly disappointed not to see the old fashioned wagons I was expecting.
The rules of the chuckwagon races – involving the positioning of the wagons at the start, the route the wagons take around the markers, and the positioning of the outriders – did escape me, I’m afraid.
Not all the horses we saw were bucking broncos and thoroughbred racers. We meandered through part of the Agricultural section of the show, and into the horsey section, and came across some huge, glossy, heavy horses being primped and prepared for their show events.
The evening show which followed the chuckwagon racing was brilliant. Song, dance, acrobatics and aerial performers worthy of the Cirque du Soleil (high praise from Paul and me, both CdS fans!), and a magnificent fireworks finale. At nearly midnight we walked out through the huge crowds still milling around the Stampede fairground and queuing for the music events, and back to our hotel. It was so warm that even at that hour, we were still wearing just t-shirts. A fantastic, if exhausting, two days.
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# Canada’s national dish? http://articles.cnn.com/2010-10-02/world/canada.poutine_1_dish-cheese-curds-foie?_s=PM:WORLD
Don’t go away! There’s a part three (in a few more days)! –ed.
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