It all started when I heard the words "world's largest rodeo". I had never been to a rodeo before so why not make my first the world's largest? I certainly knew I wouldn't be coming to visit mid winter. 24 days of vacation centered around this day. Stampede Day. I was really hoping it wouldn't disappoint.
The day didn't start out quite as planned. For one thing, we actually got a warm and sunny day. After days of rain it seemed as though God was giving us a break. But not too much of a break. On the drive over to the train station my car died while going 50 miles an hour over a bridge. Not a great thing to have happen in general. I found it especially concerning being thousands of miles from home with two little kids. Luckily the car started right back up after I cruised to a stop on the shoulder but I had a new problem on my hands. Car trouble in Canada. I hoped and prayed it would be anything major because I couldn't get stuck in Calgary forever. I had an itinerary to follow. I meticulously and freakishly planned itinerary. And hotels to review! No- getting stuck was not an option. I tried to to push the paranoia out of my mind and concentrate on finding a parking spot at the train station so we could get to Stampede. The car would have to wait until tomorrow. Nothing was gonna make us miss Stampede!
We took the public transportation to Stampede because the fairgrounds are in downtown Calgary and there is no place to park. The public transportation was nice and clean just as one would expect from Canada. The kids thought riding the train was a fantastic treat. They got to sit in big kid seats without seat belts. What could be better than that?
The train let us off directly in front of the Stampede entrance so we gathered our children and headed inside the gates. Suddenly we were surrounded by a sea of cowboy hats. Everyone seems to get in the cowboy spirit during Stampede. Yuppies wear their designer jeans and hats alongside genuine country kids who consider their hat and boots part of their daily uniform. It is nice to see so many people celebrating the spirit of Stampede. I instantly regretted not bringing my cowboy hat even though I knew it would have been squished in the back of the car by day 2 of our trip. I bought the kids a couple hats which they refused to keep on for more than 10 seconds at a time but at least we had something to hang on the stroller right?
The Stampede is like a state fair but without all the trashy people. Its clean, its nice, its friendly, and its fun.
We bought our rodeo tickets and headed in to the grandstand. Bronco riding was center stage and the kids climbed the fence to get a good view. We opted for the standing room because the stadium seating was more expensive and probably would have gone to waste with a bunch of antsy toddlers. The kids loved all the action and lasted alot longer than I would have anticipated. While I didn't have a clue as to how exactly one rider was better than another, I still loved the excitement of it all. This certainly won't be our last rodeo.
After the rodeo we decided to go check out the First Nations area. There were teepees which First Nations members lived in for the duration of the Stampede lining the field. Some were even open for us to snoop around inside.
We had been lucky enough to arrive during the tribal dance competitions. Every single one of us was enthralled by the rhythm of the drums and the beauty of the dancers. The elders seemed to like to participate in the more traditional dances with chanting and simple movements while the younger crowd loved to compete against one another in the the more physical and flashy "fancy dancing". It seems like these things hold true across cultures doesn't it?
In between competitions the kids had a blast rolling down the hill around the stage but as soon as the music would kick back up, they were fixated. For me, it was the highlight of the day.
I knew it was inevitable. We eventually had to go check out the carnival portion of the Stampede. I am not a fan of fair rides in general. When you add in the element of crowds, heat and lines I become one cranky momma. But I endured and the kids had fun.
That is, until fatigue set in and melt downs began. Suddenly asking them to sit in the stroller between rides was like asking them to peel their toenails off.
That was our cue to leave. We played one more game so we could bring home oversized novelty hammers, a must for all toddlers. The Stampede was awesome and I honestly think it set the bar in my mind for what a fair should be. Not that I won't be absolutely entertained with the deep fried bacon and parade of white trash that will come with our visit to the LA County fair this month. Ahhhh... America....
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