Full disclosure: before we were assigned to Calgary, I had never heard of the Calgary Stampede -- billed as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth". The Stampede is part rodeo, part state fair, this quintessential Canadian event was actually started by an American -- promoter Guy Weadick.
It's no surprise Calgary was chosen for this mega rodeo. Calgary is to Canada what Houston is to the U.S., a boom town built on the oil and gas industry. But before there was oil, there were cows. Lots and lots of cows. Hence Calgary's other nickname: Cowtown. Outside of Calgary in the plains of Alberta, real cowboys still roam.
But for 10 days in July, everyone in Calgary is a cowboy or cowgirl. Folks wear jeans, plaid shirts, big shiny belt buckles and cowboy boots, of course. Another Calgary tradition: the pancake breakfast. Many companies and social organizations host free pancake breakfasts throughout the city, sometimes 100 different events per morning. The costumes, parades, decorations and pancakes all lead up to the Stampede. It could take you 3 straight days and you would still not see every attraction, food stall, dog show, or ride every ride. Just $8 Canadian dollars (about $6 U.S. bucks) lets you roam the grounds for an entire day. Of course, you can still go broke buying drinks, junk food, ride tickets and tickets to headline concert events.
And of course the rodeo tickets. During the day, the Stampede grounds host a traditional rodeo with bull riding and barrel racing. At night, the shows start with the ground-shaking chuckwagon races, followed by a Vegas-style glitzy show and fireworks. Here's looking forward to the next Stampede!
More images from Calgary Stampede 2016: