Story Ideas

99 years of western fun

Saddle up for the Calgary Stampede

29 June 2011

It takes extreme creativity to truly claim the title “greatest outdoor show on earth” for nearly a century. And as the Calgary Stampede approaches its 100th birthday in 2012, the addition of extremely interesting new events is no surprise. Stampede organizers have continually added elements over the decades to ensure their “greatest outdoor show” moniker doesn’t lose its lustre. This year’s Stampede will be held July 8-17, 2011.

In 2010 the Stampede took extreme up one more notch: adding an event called “Cowboy Up,” which is based on a popular Western trend called the Extreme Cowboy Race™.

Cowboy Up adds to a two-week schedule that’s already loaded with extremes:

  • Extremely exciting rodeo with a million dollars in prize money on one Sunday alone.
  • Extremely fancy boots and hats Calgarians pull out the closet each year.
  • Extremely popular mini-doughnuts on the midway (get your own bag, once you taste them you won’t want to share!)
  • Extremely dazzling nightly fireworks (following an always over-the-top song ‘n dance show).
  • Perhaps greatest of all, the extreme-adrenaline chuckwagon races – an event rarely seen outside Alberta.

For fans of the rodeo and all-things western, Cowboy Up adds perfectly to what the Stampede started out to be 99 years ago: a big, fancy, rodeo where cowboys from the surrounding Prairie ranches could show their stuff and maybe earn a bit of prize money. Locals and visitors alike love the annual show; in 2010 over 1.1 million people passed through the Stampede’s gates.

 Cowboy Up takes place inside the Saddledome Arena (it actually looks like a saddle), and involves cowboys/girls working their horses through a variety of Western tasks and obstacles. The course changes from race to race; possibilities for the 14 obstacles include horseback archery, leading a blindfolded horse, backing the horse uphill, and even events that require the rider to stand on the saddle or navigate water obstacles, all in eight minutes.

While Cowboy Up showcases many cowboy skills, the rodeo – and especially the chuckwagon races – is still the true heart of the Calgary Stampede.

 Chuckwagon races are based on the history of cowboy camping, where a campsite would have a “chuck wagon” for their kitchen. In the race, horseback cowboys called “outriders” must toss camp equipment into the wagon before the wagon can begin racing a figure eight and a full lap of the racetrack – with the outriders completing the course too. It’s truly extreme, and rules have been changed this year to make it safer for the athletes and animals. The crowd goes wild for these races, and the stands tend to sell out. Book early!

 “Cowboy Up” Extreme Cowboy Race, July 9, 10, & 11 at 3:00 p.m.

Calgary Travel Information,

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