Honkey-tonking through Calgary Stampede

Before last weekend I had never seen a rodeo, joined in a line dance, two-stepped with a cowboy or even particularly enjoyed country music. Now I’ve done them all.

Calgary’s yearly Stampede, a two-week festival of all things country, puts the whole city into party mode. You can feel it even as you’re driving in. Large tents are set up all over the city, cowboy hats, plaid and denim are everywhere you look and there’s an ever constant buzz of country music floating to your ears from one corner or another. Not even the ever-pouring rain can dampen these spirits, or ours for that matter.

And it all starts with free breakfast events over the whole two weeks. Seriously, just follow the sounds of root in’ tooting’ and you’ll end up finding free pancakes, live music and cowboys on stilts who will lasso you while your innocently devouring all the pancakes, then try and sell you off to the highest bidder.

The only way I could add more excitement to this morning was to buy my first ever car…so I did. I call her Butt-roof Bessie.

Hearing tell of $5 Stampede entry after 5pm, we decided to celebrate the car purchase and kill time with a pub lunch. Besides, what could get you ready for beer better than beer? As 5pm drew closer the number of cowboy hats in the pub started to make it difficult to move. We figured it was time.

Did we go to any shows? Or see any animals? Or at least jump on a ride? Nope. The mood was set and we were soaked to the bone by the bucketing rain so we headed straight for Nashville North, the most popular drinking tent without a bucking bull.

CS Nashville North

As two live country bands took turns playing covers on stage, we jumped in the shortest lines for Budweiser and those pre made shots that come in sealed containers. Then we talked to other groups of people, most country folk from around the world. Then we lined up for more drinks. Then met cowboys who taught the two-step for a living. Then we lined up for more drinks, and decided a genius idea would be to buy 4 rounds of shots each at one time. Chat, drink, dance, repeat.

I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun. This is a large group of people who love to meet a stranger and who ACTUALLY dance with other; no bump and grind, no notion that one thing will lead to another. Nothing but pure, inclusive fun. No-one even minds when you join in a line dance but can’t quite get it right to the detriment of many toes around you. I’m blaming the endless shots for that one!

Crawling back home through the city is really the only problem you’re going to have here.


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