The Calgary Stampede dubs itself as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. For ten days, Calgary is transformed into a haven for cowboys and cowgirls. Stetsons and Wranglers become appropriate business attire, country and pop music stars grace the city with their presence, and rodeo champions compete for belt buckles in one of the largest rodeos in North America. Families with deep roots in chuckwagon racing test their abilities on the track, and the midway becomes a haven for deep-fried delicacies – everything from deep-fried cheesecake to deep-fried peanut butter sandwiches.
Premier’s Stampede Breakfast
I was given the opportunity to attend the Premier’s Stampede breakfast, on behalf of my employer, and with that, I caught a few glimpses of our newly-minted leader. Obviously, the food was delicious – pancakes were served with fresh berries, and my plate was loaded with eggs and breakfast sausage.
We also had the opportunity to watch a performance by the Calgary Stampede Showband. These young men and women are incredibly talented and spirited, and this was a phenomenal performance.
The food. Oh, the food. Like most years, there is a long list of new midway foods, each one sounding less healthy and more delicious than the last.
First up, on my menu, was the Empanada Chaat from the Naaco Truck. The Naaco Truck is a local food truck that prides itself on the naaco – a taco made with naan bread. Their entry was a deep-fried spicy potato empanada topped with pico de gallo, salsa verde, yogurt chutney, grated cheddar cheese and crunchy fresh onions. The spices in the empanada contrasted perfectly with the cool flavours in the toppings, and the entire dish was beautifully messy. My only complaint was the value – for $9, the dish was quite small.
Number two was The Peanut Butter Kabob from The Peanut Butter Cupboard. This was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich battered in tempura and deep-fried, cut into four pieces, and arranged on a skewer with deep-fried Reese’s peanut butter cups nestled between each piece. Each bite was sinfully delicious, with warm peanut butter oozing between strawberry jelly and crispy bread. If you love peanut butter, like I do, you would have loved this dish. It’s not for the faint of heart and should be shared. Eating this baby alone would be a difficult challenge.
Finally, we indulged in a jalapeño corn dog, because no midway experience is complete without a corn dog. Like most, this was a hot dog, dipped in batter and deep-fried. The difference was the bits of jalapeño pepper inside the batter, which gave the dish a kick. The pepper wasn’t too intense, so someone slightly averse to spicy foods could eat it with ease. No burning faces or mad dashes for aqua. This variant offered a nice twist on a midway staple. To be honest, I could have eaten another.
For dessert, we shared a bag of mini-donuts. No description needed – these are simply fried pockets of delicious sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.
In the hall with agricultural commodity booths, we watched a dozen piglets fight over their mama’s teat. Beside them was a group of weanlings, tuckered out from a busy day. Pigs are sweet and inquisitive creatures, and no matter how many sows I’ve seen, I am always impressed by their size.
The sheep appeared relaxed, some still boasting their woolly coats and others having been freshly shorn.
And, my favourite – the draft horses. These horses are intimidating in stature but gentle in disposition. Their size is impressive, with the smallest one hovering near 1,800 pounds. With the crowds cleared out, the horses were less timid, and a few nuzzled up to the bars for head scratches.
Tunes and the Grandstand Show
Finally, there was the music. The line-up for the Coca-Cola stage was impressive, to say the least. I caught two shows – July Talk and The Arkells.
Both shows were spectacular. Both groups are spectacular, and both groups come highly recommended.
We caught the last few minutes of the Grandstand Show. These performances are always delightful. They tell stories about Canada’s history and share insight into Aboriginal folklore and Western heritage.
There was more hate for the Calgary Stampede this year. Every event of this size has its issues, but I believe it’s an event that boasts something for everyone. My experience was wonderful, and I look forward to the animals, concerts, and midway treats next year.