Western Canada celebrates 100 years of the Calgary Stampede July 6-15.
Vaudeville star Guy Weadick’s vision of an authentic rodeo nods to nostalgia and changing times, now as in 1912. (Even its first program lamented that “the great days of the cowboy have passed.”)
Today a cosmopolitan oil and gas boomtown, Calgary pays exuberant homage to its bucking-broncos heritage during the “greatest outdoor show on Earth,” when residents trade their suits for jeans and ten-gallon hats to party down frontier style and watch top cowboys get thrashed about by angry bulls.
As legendary Calgary-area singer and rancher Ian Tyson, the 2012 marshal of the opening day parade, says, “The Stampede is a connection from the old days to the contemporary Western lifestyle.”
Due to public outcry over horse deaths during the signature chuck wagon race, the Stampede has in recent years instituted strict safety rules, and vets use microchips to monitor animal health.
Must-dos: breakfast on free pancakes, wander tepees at the Indian Village, and visit downtown’s Glenbow Museum to see 18 paintings by Charlie Russell—famed for his rich portrayals of the unfenced West—that also showed at the first Stampede. For a break from the fairgrounds’ mini-doughnuts, follow Calgarians to the Alley Burger food truck, serving burgers made from Alberta beef.
This piece, written by Jeremy Klaszus, appeared in the June/July 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler.