It started with an email “I’m happy to let you know that your media accreditation is ready to pick up!” What????? First, I had mentioned to Trina several months ago that the Stampede had a great line up for concerts this year. “Do you think we could get media accreditation to go?” Little did I know that she had submitted our name until we received the email. Then the panic sets in. We received the email on Wednesday afternoon and the kick off for the Stampede started the next day. I had work commitments, family commitments, Trina has family commitments also as well as school commitments, how were we going to pull this off???? In true Trina fashion she was on the internet and had us booked on flights with Flair Airlines the next day, cashed in some Airmiles and booked us 4 days worth of hotels. OMG this was real….. we are going to the Calgary Stampede!
We arrived in Calgary tired but ready to go and explore. We settled into our hotel and then headed out for some food before making our way to the Stampede grounds. When Trina booked the hotel it said only 8 blocks to the Stampede grounds and we thought perfect that is not too bad of a walk……. well that lasted once! We arrived at the Stampede grounds and after talking to some very friendly staff, found our way to where we needed to pick up our passes. We walked around a bit and took in the sights but decided to call it an early night and start fresh in the morning. We called an Uber and back to the hotel we went!
Calgary Transit to the Stampede
We awoke the next day ready to go. Trina had done some research on the https://www.calgarytransit.com/home.html, so off we went to figure this out. It turned out to be a great choice. $9 got us a ride all day pass. Hop on and off as much as you wanted. Trains run every 7-10 mins, they were clean and took right to the entrance of the https://www.calgarystampede.com. We walked in and realized the gates weren’t open yet, but all the midway and food trucks were just coming to life. It was a cool experience to stand on the midway and take it all in before the crowds got there! After talking to several staff we learned that due to COVID restrictions the attendance each was being kept to 25% capacity, but all staff were still wearing masks as they were everywhere we had gone so far in Calgary. We noticed a COVID testing center when we had come in the night before so we went over to check that out. We found out that to attend any of the concert in https://www.calgarystampede.com/nashville-north we had to show proof of at least one vaccine and it had to be from at least 2 weeks previous or do a rapid test. After showing proof of our vaccines we were given a wrist band and told that we had to do this process every day that we wanted to get into the concert venue.
We left the testing center and started to wander around and then we heard it! Brett Kissel doing soundcheck. Now I always get excited to hear live music, but this was the first time a year and a half and it gave me goosebumps! It sounded amazing even if it was just a sound check!
When Brett hit the stage later that night, he did not disappoint. He was very humble and emotional to finally be back on a stage with a live audience right in front of him. Bobby Wills and The Relaws also performed great shows with high energy and full of excitement to be back on stage. I personally enjoyed the shows but also thoroughly enjoyed watching the crowds where a majority of the people were two stepping or line dancing to every song played! So much fun to watch.
The live music was a highlight, but let’s face it…. this is the Calgary Stampede and that means horse shows, animal shows and many many displays. Over the course of the week, we took in many events such as Bull Riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, tie down roping, saddle bronc and bareback riding. Competitors came from all over Canada, The US and some from as far away as Australia. There was a group of riders called the Horse Exchange Riders that came from Quebec. Now I have no idea why someone would want to purposely fall off a horse but it made for a very entertaining competition to watch.
I am a big fan of the horse and bull competitions, but Trina fell in love with the Stock Dog competitions. It was very interesting to watch the dog handlers attempt to control their dogs and guide them to herd 3 sheep. It was quite comical at times. Just when you thought the dog and the handler had the sheep in control, the sheep would change their mind and be gone! It was a timed event, with many rules that we found out along the way. The dog can not bite or harm the sheep in any way. The handlers use various commands or sounds to guide the dogs and the sheep…… well some were compliant and did what they needed to and others had a mind of their own! Other events held in the Nutrien Western Event Center included The Cowboy Up Challenge, Canadian Miniature Horse Show, Team Cattle Penning Championship, Heavy Horse Pull and Team Cattle Penning Championship. Lots to watch and take in through the week. Neither Trina and I spent a lot of time watching many of these events in the past so not only was it exciting to watch but also learn about what the expectations etc. were.
Every night the Stampede puts on a Grandstand Show. Trina and I decided to go the night High Valley was playing and was really only expecting an amazing High Valley Show, but we experienced a whole lot more. High Valley put on an amazing show, but it was short and sweet. They kicked off the show but once they were done (only about 15 minutes), we had a parade of other performers on stage. It reminded me of a old school variety show. The show consisted of motorcycle jumpers, Native dancers, trampoline acrobats, a comedian and the most amazing fire works display. This show happens nightly including the fire works which lasted over 30 minutes.
Food! Food is definitely a huge part of the Stampede as well. The Stampede releases a list of foods a head of time to get everyone excited. We tried many types of food. Trina was excited to try the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger. I had no desire to try it, but did take a taste of hers and had to admit, it was quite good. We also tried the deep fried cheese curds, butter chicken bombs, tacos, deep fried cheesecake and of course the mini donuts! My COVID 20 turned into COVID 40 with all the amazing food!
Along with the time spent at the Stampede grounds, we also spent some time exploring downtown Calgary. Walking through downtown we found a lot of cool things to check out. We found several streets with many different restaurants, all with patios and some very yummy food. Downtown also had some very cool art displays to explore. We stumbled across The Famous Five. It has also been known as the Valiant Five and the Alberta Five. The statues represent five prominent Canadian suffragists who advocated for women and children. We also found the Bow Building head statue called Wonderland. It is a large female head made of wire that you can walk inside of.
Beauty in Banff and Lake Louise
We decided to take a few days away from Calgary and head to Banff and Lake Louis. We had attempted to rent a car, but nothing was available. There were many options for shuttles so we found one and booked our tickets. The cost was inexpensive and the shuttles were flexible making it easy to get to Banff. When we arrived and checked into our hotel, they gave us a bus pass that allowed us unlimited trips on the bus system during our stay. We dropped our bags and the hotel and set off to explore. The beauty of the mountains in the background of this quaint town was like nothing we had ever seen before. It was quite smokey from the forest fires in BC and the US but the beauty of the town and the mountains could be seen. We spent some time roaming through the shops and hiked a trail along the river to get some pictures of the iconic Banff Springs hotel. The views were amazing, the bugs not so much! We spent most of the rest of the day exploring the many shops in town.
The next day we decided to take the bus up to the Starbucks and check out the views. Trina wanted to order a coffee from the highest elevation Starbucks so off we went. We got to the Starbucks and Trina got her coffee. We sat and looked at the views and then looked at the Gondola that takes you up the mountain. Neither of us is a fan of rides like the Gondola but we decided to take a chance and I am so glad we did. It was a scary ride up and then back down after but when we got to the station at the top of the gondola the views were unreal! We walked around and sat and just took in the views. Words can’t even begin to describe the beauty of what we were seeing. We decided to walk up the trail a little farther, and then decided to go a little further and then a little further yet and before we knew it we had walked up to the old weather station which was the highest point we could go. At that point we were over 10 000 ft up the mountain. I looked down to see the spot where we had sat yesterday by the river and could barely see it. Even the bottom gondola station was barely visible. Looking around we were staring at the tops of the other mountains and couldn’t believe we had climbed that far!
The next day we hopped another another of the Banff Express buses and headed to Lake Louis. Now I thought the views in Banff were amazing but nothing prepared me for the beauty of Lake Louis. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe it! We walked around and dipped our feet in the freezing water and then just sat and took in the beauty. We didn’t have a lot of time and due to the bus schedules we headed back into town and grabbed some food before we had to board the bus to head back. We were really hoping to do the gondola here as they say that is the best chance to see bear, both grizzles and black bears. There was no bus that went to the gondola and without a car it was quite the walk so decided to wait until next time! This would be the only downfall of the trip was not being able to secure a rental car so had a little more freedom but next time!
We boarded the bus and headed back to Calgary. Saturday morning we met up with friend’s of Trina for breakfast a little sightseeing. The took us to the backside of the Stampede grounds. From there you get a great view of the iconic Saddledome. Trina and I went back to the Stampede grounds afterwards to take in some more of the sights and sounds. Every other day that we were there you could tell they were operating at a 25% capacity but not this day. It was a Saturday and the grounds were packed. I can only imagine how crazy it would be if they were allowed full capacity! We called it an early day and went back to the hotel as we were flying home the next day. The Stampede was amazing, Calgary was amazing and Banff and Lake Louis were amazing, but we were anxious to get home to our loved ones! This was out first trip during COVID and we felt completely at ease with the restrictions and precautions in place. Yes it may have added time to our day each day having to show out vaccine proof or the additional screening at the airports etc. but it wasn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things! I was just grateful that we were able to travel and enjoy what the Calgary Stampede and surround areas had to offer! Until we meet again Calgary!