Photo: Christopher Halloran/Shutterstock

How to: Be a Cowboy/cowgirl for the Calgary Stampede

Calgary Insider Guides Calgary Stampede: 100 Years
by Jill Browne Jul 14, 2011
Jill Browne tells you what you need to know to fit in when taking in one of the coolest Canadian events of the year.

[Editor’s note: This was first posted here in its original form. The Calgary Stampede runs from July 8th to the 17th, 2011 in Calgary, Alberta.]

REPEAT AFTER ME: “Yahoo!” No, not that yodelly thing like the search engine. Maybe you should try, “Yeehaw!!”

That’s better.

Dress western
White means good guy or else that the Calgary Chamber of Commerce gave it to you.

OK, have you got a hat? I mean, a John D. Stetson, or a Biltmore, or something cheaper, but it has to look like a proper cowboy hat for at least the ten days of the Calgary Stampede.

White means good guy or else that the Calgary Chamber of Commerce gave it to you. Black means intriguing, mysterious bad guy. Straw means you’re cheap, brown means you’re fashionable, and pink means you’re very secure of your sexuality and quite possibly you’re raising funds for breast cancer research.

Boots. Let me say a word about boots: Ouch. Don’t even think about buying new boots in Calgary and wearing them to the Stampede grounds. But if you own cowboy boots already, wear ’em. Day and night. Sleep with your boots on.

Some ladies like to fake it with a fashionable boot and a high heel but, come on, we know darn well you’re not going out to the barn in those. Personally, I’d recommend the humble running shoe. Claim you’re an outrider. They’re the men and women who ride the fast horses that follow the chuckwagons around the track in the “Half a Mile of Hell” chuckwagon races.

The outriders have to load poles and stoves into the chuckwagons after the race starts, but before they can get onto their horses. So they wear running shoes to be faster on their feet. You can, too.

Shirt. Western shirts come in all colours and degrees of fanciness, but they all have long sleeves, a collar, nice buttons, and they’re crisp and clean. No wrinkly old Metallica T-shirts, please.

Real cowboys do not like loose ends.

You have to wear blue denim jeans, of course. Bring them from home or buy them here, but the best ones are a little faded, with character and absolutely no rips or frays. Real cowboys do not like loose ends.

Get yourself a belt with an enormous, shiny belt buckle. Maybe with a picture of a horse on it.

Go to the right Stampede events

In the morning, get yourself to a pancake breakfast. is an ingenious website started in 2009 to lead you to the grub. The CBC breakfast is a really good one, but there are so many, just pick one and go.

Maybe mosey on down to the Stampede grounds for a while, or stop at a beer garden after breakfast, your choice. You know you wanna. Or do you have the kids with you? In which case, try to hit Kids Day if you can.

Eat the wonderful Stampede foods. Pork on a stick. Beef on a stick. Candy on a stick. Candy apples on a stick. Are you seeing a trend? Oh, did I mention? They have beer gardens at the grounds, too.

In the evening: Chuckwagon races! Do not miss these. They run at the grandstand, on the Stampede grounds, every night. Get rush tickets on the same day for the best deal, and no matter how hot it is outside, bring a jacket because it gets chilly in the stands after a while.

After the chucks there’s still time to spend strolling the grounds, drinking beer, or watching the grandstand show, whatever appeals.

So, to review, here’s how to make the best of the ten days of the Calgary Stampede:

  1. Dress western.
  2. Eat pancakes for breakfast.
  3. Drink beer for lunch and dinner.
  4. Go to the Stampede grounds and eat food on a stick.
  5. Watch the chuckwagons.
  6. Repeat.


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