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Cowboy trail: The Calgary Stampede

Every July, Calgary hosts the world-famous Calgary Stampede. Why not grab your cowboy hat and join all the fun? This year is the centennial celebration, so saddle up the horse partner, and mosey on in. Here are some of the best reasons to visit Calgary during the stampede.

Calgary Stampede

Mark your calendars, and get ready to celebrate the 100th year of the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”! The centennial celebration of the Calgary Stampede will be held July 6–15, 2012, and will be 10 days and nights of jam-packed fun and entertainment. Here is a rundown of the reasons to visit Cowtown during the stampede.

The Calgary Stampede Parade

Visitors young and old alike from across the globe take in the parade each year, as it heralds the start of the Calgary Stampede. As it weaves throughout the city’s downtown core, parade lovers are treated to a variety of incredible floats, world-class marching bands and much more, including several nods to Alberta’s western heritage, with celebratory rides of the First Nations as well as classic cowboy horsemanship. The official start is 9 a.m., July 6, 2012, but parade watchers will have completely lined the streets by then, so head down early to nab a viewing spot. Reserved seating is available but limited; check for more details.

Free pancake breakfasts

Free pancakes — and lots of them! Every morning you’ll find the Stampede Caravan stationed throughout Calgary, flipping up free flapjacks and serving up great entertainment. See for specific dates and locations. One of the best pancake breakfasts around is the one held on the Stampede grounds for Suncor Energy Family Day (this year, on Sunday, July 8, 2012). Not only will you be treated to a great breakfast, but admission to the exhibition grounds is free from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. Plan on being an early riser to take advantage of this deal, as the free breakfasts are limited to the first 20,000 guests.

The million-dollar rodeo

With cowboys vying for their share of over $2 million in prize money, this is a must-see event. Every afternoon, take in all the thrills and spills of a professional rodeo from the Calgary Grandstand outdoor arena. The final day is July 15, 2012, with the best cowboys in their class each taking home a much-coveted bronze trophy sculpture and a cheque for a cool $100,000!

The GMC Rangeland Derby and TransAlta Grandstand Show

Each night, the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” certainly lives up to its name. The evening starts off with a thunderous roar not from the weather, but from excitement and action of the chuckwagon races, as 36 drivers and their teams race for day money and a grand prize of $100,000. The second part of the evening is the incredible Grandstand Show. For the stampede’s centennial celebration, this awe-inspiring spectacle of music, dancing and more features Canadian superstar Paul Brandt, who will join the multi-talented entertainers The Young Canadians onstage each night. It all comes to a brilliant end with the amazing TransAlta “Lights Up the Night” fireworks display. For tickets, visit

Dressing the part

One of the best things about the stampede is that you can let your inner cowgirl — or cowboy — shine! That means dressing the part. For the stampede’s 10 days, western wear becomes the norm, with locals and visitors donning jeans, cowboy boots and hats. Whether you opt for authentic western garb or choose to go Daisy Duke style instead, it’s all part of the fun!

The cowboy club scene

During the stampede, the local watering holes embrace the western spirit with cowboy-inspired food, drinks and, of course, a playlist of country western tunes! Popular bars and dance halls are often as busy during the day as they are at night, with partygoers looking to have a cold one and to do some two-stepping! Three Cowtown hot spots to check out are Nashville North, Cowboys and Ranchman’s.

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