Monday, July 11, 2011

A Western Weekend

On Friday, my husband texted to ask if I wanted to go to the Calgary Stampede on the weekend. I don't know much about these things, but it's been Stampede all week on the radio, billboards, flags, you name it around Calgary. My impression of the Stampede was that it's an agricultural fair - I thought it would be like the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) or the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair that we have in Toronto. The Stampede is a Calgary must, apparently - and in the spirit of making the most of our time here, we bought tickets.

On Saturday morning I read the headline on CBC about a horse being put down after the chuckwagon races Friday night. Death at the fair? I read on and learned that horses seem to die often during or after chuckwagon races - from heart attacks, broken legs, or exhaustion. After six horses died last year, they made new health and safety regulations for the races, yet one still died on Friday. How sad!

We did go to the Stampede and joined the crowds; the vast majority were decked out in plaid, cowboy hats and boots and what our Albertan friend calls "turkey platters" (those big ol' belt buckles). Apparently, the Stampede is a license to skank as well... Forgive me my geezer's take on this but the young women there really weren't wearing enough! I'm all for flattering clothing and am not averse to mini skirts or tight shirts, but girls - don't dress like it's for sale! But I digress...

We wandered the livestock buildings (one building to admire the animals, the next to encourage us to eat them - sigh), watched some of a very cool and speedy sheep shearing competition, saw lovely heavy horses parade around with chariots, and, yes, attended the chuckwagon races.

I found the races to be a little boring, actually. There are nine heats with four chuckwagons racing each one. There was one that was quite close at the end, and that was exciting just to see which team won, but mainly it was won from the start. Yes, the horses run fast. I guess I'm just not a race aficionado, because it seems really pointless to see which corporate-sponsored team runs the fastest. Who really cares? A stadium full of people and some big business, apparently - just not me. I went up behind the stands and nursed Mia in the middle of the races so I didn't see all of them. Maybe I missed the whole point somehow, but I think not.

Mia and I at the chuckwagon races

After the races was a live show somewhat modeled after Cirque de Soleil shows called Volte, which included a great fireworks display. Mia seemed to like the fireworks, starting a little at the pop!s but open mouthed with wonder at the lights and colours.

I did enjoy the Stampede - the midway was fun to wander (though we didn't play the games or ride the rides - I just love the colour and bustle of it all). It was fun people-watching. I imagine a lot of the cowboy/girl get-ups we saw are brought out once a year just for Stampede! We got some fancy spiral cut chips and I had a yummy fruit shake. My husband enjoyed an applewood smoked beef sandwich. Mia loved the heavy horse show with the live orchestra - she was wide-eyed and bouncing on my husband's knee as we watched. I think the aspects that I liked are the country fair parts, though, not necessarily the parts that make it the Stampede.

The other thing we did this weekend was a 12.3km hike in Kananaskis Country - the Powderface Trail (Prairie Link). It goes up and down and up and down a LOT, so we were sore-legged by the end! Mia rode in the carrier and slept much of the way. We'd just finished two-thirds of the trail when it began to rain and hail (!), and the temperature dropped from a comfy 20 degrees down to 12, so we rushed - as much as we could, tired hikers we - through to the end and were thoroughly drenched and chilled by the time we got to the car. Luckily, Mia's carrier has a good waterproof canopy and while she was a little chilly, she warmed up fast while she nursed.

I love a good hike but definitely could have done without the rain!

So that was our western weekend!


  1. I definitely don't get the whole horse racing thing either. We have a track in our neck of the woods and I've only been maybe a few times. Mia's face says it all in that picture!
    We took my son on a hike in Algonquin in a front carrier and my husband carried him. Poor husband kept getting kicked in the dingle berries...oops!

  2. Motherhood looks good on you- you're beautiful & so happy! Mia is beautiful! I don't check in often enough, but I'm just thrilled you finally got your wish :)))


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