Party time in Calgary (9th July)
Having reached the hotel and found we were only booked in the one night instead of four, meant that last night was spent emailing various agents in the UK and Canada to try to find out who had cocked up. The problem was exacerbated by the floods in Toronto which had shut the offices of Jonview, our Canadian tour operators, for this part of the tour. It turned out the hotel had Sue booked in with "John", who she claims she doesn't know but hopes is a young, strapping cowboy.
We departed into downtown Calgary to join the street party which had already commenced before nine o'clock in the morning. Some dozey doeing with a terrific caller and a band at such an early hour was strange to watch, and now we have bought some authentic cowboy hats (made in China), Sue promises she will take part tomorrow. A $3 donation to the Calgary Fireman Burns charity brought us breakfast - pancakes with maple syrup plus sausages and beans. We proceeded to Olympic Plaza, where we watched a couple of bands perform, before the dramatic entrance and display of dancing from the First Nations.
donation for Calgary Fire Service bought us breakfast while watching marvellous
street entertainment in the sun. Have acquired cowboy hats and are in the mood
..... this is one big street party ...... Yee-Haw !
Although we have tickets for the big afternoon rodeo show tomorrow and the evening show on Thursday, we decided to go down to Stampede Park and pay for ground admission. It was a hot, sunny day and we walked about a mile to the Park. Our goal was the Indian Village, or First Nations to be more PC, but to get there we had to walk through a huge tacky fair ground which provided a strange contrast. Having reached the village, which was a demonstration of what life would have been like, we were fascinated by their teepees, and went into one to talk to its owner. More dancing followed with the most colourful outfits. Worth the entrance money in itself.
Not exactly The Pony Club (10th July)
Another hot, sunny day in downtown Calgary. Mustn't complain as it was a dreadful day when we arrived but today was really HOT !
Breakfast consisted of free pancakes with crispy bacon from one of the wagons in Flour Square, normally Olympic Plaza but they had changed its name for the Stampede sponsors (like the O2 and North Greenwich Arena for the Olympics). Today they had organised a serious pancake making contest with three chefs representing different businesses. They had 12 minutes to make a perfect pancake which would then be judged by three independent judges. A cowboy started the contest off by firing his gun into the air ..... hopefully firing a blank ! Although we didn't stay to taste their offerings, we can confirm that the other pancake makers were first class.
We then proceeded to Stampede Park and took our seats for the main event of the day, the Rodeo. As we would normally be more interested in the more English sports of tennis and cricket, it was a shock to find so many people getting excited about individuals, usually men but sometimes young boys, trying to stay on board the back of various animals which had obviously been primed to make sure this didn't happen. We were 'entertained' by a series of horses, calves and bulls plus some extraordinarily bendy humans who had to stay on for a certain number of seconds to get a score which seems to have been decided by the combined skill of both the man and the beast. I don't think we would go again, but having said that, we wouldn't have missed this opportunity to go the once.
We have been eating in the hotel every evening in the bar, being entertained by live Country musicians, all of whom have been very good. Tonight was no exception.
Looking forward to our last full day in Calgary tomorrow when we will hopefully buy our "Hell or High Water" t-shirts which are being sold to raise money for the flood relief. For those who don't know, a lot of Alberta and specifically Calgary was deep under water only a couple of weeks ago and the prospect of The Stampede taking place must have been in serious doubt. I must admit that I was one of those who said they would never get everything dried out and cleaned up in just a week, but hats off to all concerned, they did the impossible and there is very little trace of anything having been wrong. Canadians are right to be proud of their country for achieving this.
Do-si-do and swinging our partners (11th July)
What a way to start the day. Another excellent $3 worth of pancakes with maple syrup, sausages and beans for the Calgary Firemans Burns Unit. If that were not enough, we watched the square dancing being done on the street, organised by volunteers who knew their promenades from their four stars. Sue had previously said that she might be brave enough to join one of the cowboys for a dance if asked, but bizarrely it was me who was approached by a cowgirl and invited onto the square for a Yee Haa dance. How could I refuse ? As I don't know my arm from my elbow, the chance of any coordinated square dancing was remote .... and so it turned out ! Sue then found a cowboy for the next couple of dances and did as well as I had done. Not very pretty but we both had great fun and enjoyed it immensely.
One of the places not so many people went to, was the Western Oasis in the market area of the Stampede grounds. For the second day running we sat listening to some very talented musicians. It was a class place to be and very much contrasting with the fair ground atmosphere outside.
The main event of the day, however, was the evening Chuckwagon Racing and the Grandstand Show. Now, I had seen a bit of Chuckwagon Racing on U-Tube and it looked exciting. It involved nine races, each containing four chuckwagons being driven by a cowboy around a track with a barrel in the back of the wagon and two outriders. The first round the track wins. Sounds simple and not unexciting but they managed to drown the whole thing with inane commentary at the highest volume imaginable inter spaced with advertising at every nook and turn. We weren't terribly impressed, I'm afraid to say ...... Perhaps us English need simpler sports like tiddlywinks and wif waf to get excited ?
After the racing came the Grandstand Show. How can we describe this ? It was a mixture between The Gang Show, Britain's Got Talent and The Royal Variety Performance ...... Not necessarily the best bits! There were singers, dancers, acrobats, people arriving suspended from gantries but, although there was a lot of well choreographed sets and it wasn't bad, it failed to reach the heights we had anticipated. The exception were the fireworks at the end of the show which were spectacular and mind blowingly good.
remarkable how they managed to get the Stampede on after devastating floods
only two weeks earlier. Yee Haa and hats off to all concerned !
We have enjoyed our few days in Calgary and loved being part of the Stampede. Now need a rest by a lake for a week to recover and recharge our batteries !