Stampede Recap Part 1

Well, I made it out alive! And I’m having a real tough time believing that was only 10 days, while watching the Grandstand show Saturday night it made me think the opening Thursday dress rehearsal was maybe even a past life.

From shadowing bull rider Austin Meier to meeting Sale & Pelletier to getting to ride in a chuck (definite #1 experience of the week, turnback barrier a close second), I’m still digesting the fact that I was the first person to do something really no one else has ever had a chance to. And that doesn’t even take account the living right next to the Rotary Dream Home in my own deliciously air conditioned RV. Apologies if I never mentioned where it was before, but man’s gotta have at least some privacy, even if there’s thousands of people standing mere feet away from his bed.

I also never got a chance to thank the folks in the Lazy S for the delicious food and amazing hospitality for the Sunday finals. Being able to watch live where half a second can mean the difference between $100,000 and nothing is thrilling to say the least! And I got to cap the day getting the very last ride of anyone on the Tilt-A-Whirl!

Sorry I had to take Monday completely off, and my brain’s still coming back online, but I can definitely come away from this awesome ride with the ability to tell stories for hours on end, and it’ll probably still be a few days before I sit down, take a deep breath and say “woah.” Only a month ago I was bugging everyone I knew to vote for me in the Ultimate Intern contest, and believe me it was worth it to see it come to fruition. Only a year and a half ago I was stuck behind a desk tapping keys, and look at the Ultimate Intern “job” I just got as a break from my permanent vacation!

I’m going to be working on a recap part 2 with all my best pictures and videos and perhaps a few of the juiciest behind-the-scenes moments, but until then, thanks to all the amazing people at the Stampede for taking such great care of me, and be forewarned you won’t be able to get rid of me next year!

Stampede 2011 – What a ride!! – A day in the life of the Royalty

Day 10

I can’t believe how fast this year has gone by. I can still vividly remember the day we were all crowned – the media frenzy, being whisked away to take pictures and then rushed to another room to receive our first “royal” instructions. And now to think that the 10 days we were all waiting for has quickly come to a close is really mind-blowing. This year’s Stampede was amazing. The weather was very cooperative, the turnout of people was outstanding and the events happening on park were new and exciting. It is hard to describe just how great our Stampede was, without having a behind the scenes camera to follow us around on our very long days and take footage of the fun we had together.

A day in the life of a member of the Stampede royalty would typically begin by getting up around 5:30am. I went in expecting that I would be exhausted and grumpy getting up that early every day, but I was always greeted by the smiling faces of my Stampede sisters and it really wasn’t too hard to get going. We had the privilege of staying in the Hyatt down town, so having a 10 day sleep over with a couple of your favorite people in the world isn’t a bad gig.

We would then get ourselves ready for the day, and were usually out the door by 7am. The morning would typically consist of around 4 to 5 breakfasts, normally off-park, where we would visit with people from all over Calgary and often times from abroad. It was great to see that the Stampede spirit was alive all over the city, and the true meaning of the “Here All Year” slogan that we promote during our reign was present. We would normally head back to the park around noon, where we would attend a lunch function of some sort, visit our Royalty Cabin and sign autographs, and then head to the track to get on our horses to warm up and do the Grand Entry at the rodeo. This was a major highlight of the day.

After Grand Entry, we would typically visit the suites in the Infield, and had the opportunity to meet many people from many walks of life.
At 4pm we would get back on our horses to ride in “Happy Trails” to close the rodeo. If we had no other events booked we would head back to the hotel to change for the evening.
Many days we would have events booked within the next hour and a half, and then would head to the Grandstand stage to kick off the Rangeland Derby and the evening show. You may have spotted us dashing from our vehicle across the tarmac to the stage…never a dull moment! Each night we would alternate who gave the opening speech, and we each got to speak twice. It is a pretty amazing experience to address 20,000 people from all over the world! After this, we would sometimes visit more Infield suites, or head to more booked events happening on park. A typical evening would end around 10:30-11 p.m.

Highlights of the 2011 Stampede:

1. Grand Entry – Galloping in the arena and waving to a crowd of 20,000 people!
2. Speaking on the Grand Stand stage and singing “Oh Canada” with the Military helicopter overhead flying the Canadian flag
3. Waving to the Duke and Dutchess in the Parade!
4. Square dancing down town with the Down-town Attractions committee
5. Meeting all the wonderful children that brighten our days with their smiles and great energy
6. Meeting VIP guests such as Vince Vaughn, Kevin Costner,Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, and many dignitaries from around the world, not excluding our brave military guests.
7. Spending time with our Courtesy Car drivers who made our week so much more special
8. Sharing our experiences with our amazing advisors who have helped shape our year from day 1, preparing us for this week. (Thank you so much! <3)
9. Riding terrifying rides like the skyscraper and the slingshot! (Only Steph, Whitney and Eva could convince me to do this!)
10. Getting to catch a few songs of the Katy Perry and Kenny Chesney concerts!
11. Signing autographs and taking pictures! – Who knew someone would really want MY signature??
12. Learning and experiencing more than I ever knew about the Stampede and Calgary!
13. Having tea and bannack with Eva’s family in their tipi at the Indian Village
14. Sharing this entire experience with 3 very important people – Whitney, Stephanie and Eva!

Ummm…how much longer do you have? I could probably go on for days…

Thank you to the Royalty Committee, Courtesy Car, the Board of Directors, all the volunteers and employees at the Calgary Stampede and our AMAZING, WONDERFUL, FANTABULOUS sponsors for making these 10 days so special for us. We will never forget this experience!

Royalty meets Royalty

Calgary Stampede Rodeo Day Ten

Today we talked to two bull riders Mike Lee and J.B. Mauney. They both rode in Showdoen Sunday however only Mike advanced on to the top four. Mike said he would rate his Stampede experience this year a 9/10 because he didn’t win but came close coming in second. Mike really enjoyed going to the Hospital to visit some of the kids. When asked what the secret to being a good bull rider is he jokingly says its better to be stupid as a bull rider but he says that he finds that if he doesn’t think about the ride real hard he rides better. He also says that having faith helps him in his carrier.
J.B. said up until today he would rate his Stampede 8/10 but today was a 1/10. He says he loves Calgary and the people that make up this great city there is lots to do. His favorite place is Ranchmen’s where many of the cowboys go to relax. His secret to being a good bull rider is to have lots of heart and a strong grip.

Who is Calgary’s Top Dueling Chef?

Who is the top Dueling Chef for the 2011 Calgary Stampede?   Congratulations to Duncan Ly, Executive Chef at the Hotel Arts who battled it out with David Flegel, Executive Chef at the Hyatt Hotel to win the Dueling Chef competition Saturday night on the Calgary Co-op Kitchen Theatre stage.  Both chefs treated the judges and audience to a great evening of cooking and it was a wonderful experience for everyone involved.

What’s Happening at Stampede Park: July 18 – 24

With Stampede 2011 in the books, not much is happening on Park this week as tear down and clean up is on the agenda (not to mention a much needed break for the many employees and volunteers who’ve been working hard over the last 10 days!).

That said, there’s always something going on at the Stampede Casino.  For example, if you missed hypnotist Terry Stokes on the Coca-Cola Stage this year, he’ll be performing in the Big Sky Showroom July 18 and 19.

Here are the details on that and more:

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What makes a good chuckwagon horse?

Like most professional athletes, chuckwagon horses are happiest when they’re competing. And, just like the pros, they have specific skills, individual personalities, and unique traits that set each of them apart.

So what makes a good chuckwagon horse? It often depends on which driver you ask but they’ll often look at a horse’s size, stature, race records and bloodlines.

Because most chuckwagon horses are thoroughbreds from the racetrack, they already love to run. Sometimes they’ve had an winning career and retire by the age of six or seven.

While appearances vary, chuckwagon horses do sport a certain look. Most drivers agree that larger geldings are preferred. They usually range from 15’3 hands up to 17’2 hands, and they’ll come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Most of all they’re fit, healthy and happy.

The drivers can tell if the horses are better suited to running on the left or the right, as wheelers (closest to the wagon) or leaders, even if they’re matched with the right team mates. It’s a lot like building a hockey team. You could have two star players but if they don’t play well together then the line won’t work. On the flip side, sometimes one new horse will re-energize the entire outfit – the missing link to a championship team.

It takes time and patience for chuckwagon drivers to build a winning team. As for the horses, their job is natural – Thoroughbreds are happiest when they’re running; in fact you’d be hard pressed to get them to do anything else.

Here are two videos of excellent horses that will be running tonight, Jerry Bremner’s Big Shot and Kelly Sutherland’s Reggie:

Adventures on the Stampede Midway: A Ride on the Wild Side

I’ll admit, I’m not much of a “ride guy” myself as I have a mild fear of heights (which I can totally trace back to being three years old when my dad was tossing me up and down.  It was fun for the first few tries, except when he missed catching me; luckily, the couch was underneath me to break my fall but I don’t think I’ve been the same ever since), plus I tend to get a mild case of vertigo sometimes when spun around and around.

But, in the interest of the greater good, it is indeed possible for me to overcome my fears to bring you, the loyal Stampede Blog reader, something interesting to read.

With that in mind, this week, a couple of my fellow Stampede Bloggers (Jessica Wilkinson and Sophy Kors) and myself decided to try two of the rides on the Stampede Midway which may be considered staples by some: the Sling Shot and the Skyscraper.  Furthermore, we decided to video record our (mis)adventures, just so you could get a sample of what you’re missing if you’ve never been.

First up is the Sling Shot, which made its Stampede debut a very long time ago.  It’s sometimes considered a reverse bungee ride as it shoots you up in the sky while being strapped to a seating apparatus held down by cords on two sides.  The elasticity is provided by compression springs at either end of the apparatus.  I had never been on this ride before, so I, along with Jessica, decided to try it out while Sophy took control of the camera:

Unfortunately (or fortunately for us?), the audio on the ride’s camera wasn’t recording at full strength at the time so you can’t hear what we were saying, but as you can see, it’s fun, yet a little short (but it doesn’t feel that way when you’re in it).  They ask you to remove everything loose on you (so it doesn’t fall off), but I had forgotten to remove my name tag so the entire time, I was squeezing the seat harness tightly, hoping it wouldn’t fall off.  Luckily it didn’t, but I guess I’ll know better for next time.

Next up is the Skyscraper, which also made its Stampede debut years ago.  It bills itself as a 70 m.p.h. thrill ride, mainly by spinning you around at heights that allow you to see the entirety of Stampede Park.

Because this is a spinning ride, I decided to forgo it just to be safe and volunteered to film it instead, while Sophy and Jessica stepped up to ride it:

As you can see, the girls had a lot of fun, and it definitely will wake you up if you’re feeling a little groggy.

With the Calgary Stampede wrapping up today, there isn’t much time left for us to sample more Midway rides this year, but if you have a chance to come down yourself, why not give these two a try?  The Sling Shot and Skyscraper are marquee rides and thus don’t apply to the Midway ride ticket program.  Instead, they’re $40 a person, and you can purchase a video of your ride afterwards for a nominal fee.

As for next year, I definitely want to try these rides at night, and based on the video and the reactions of the girls, maybe even try that Skyscraper myself!

Calgary Stampede Rodeo Day Nine

Today we talked to Matt Shiozawa a tie down roper. Today he rode in wild card Saturday and will be advancing on to big money Sunday. He is here with his wife and daughter and loves having them here to cheer him on. This is one of the few rodeos that the whole family comes to because his daughter is so young. Matt loves his job because he get to rope and win but unfortunately has to travel about eighty to one hundred thousand miles a season. In the next four or five years he would love to start teaching younger ropers because there is not many people to teach the next generation. He loves coming back to the Stampede and hopes to be back next year.

The Human Turnback Barrier

I’m going to rate my experience manning the turnback barrier for the chucks a very close second to riding in the guest wagon with Devin, and I honestly mean very close. In theory it’s really not too hard, get the red tarp out there when the wagons start, move it sometime within the 1:15 seconds that follow. But it’s a bit more complicated than that, and I didn’t even have to deal with the wind.

I was honestly thrilled that everyone else on the team was a legitimate farmhand living on the grounds just like yours truly. They all get up at 6 AM every day to feed the horses, and we both get through the day with the help of a lil’ coffee.

The basic idea is that the horses think the giant red canvas is a wall, so they decide to rip it the other “proper” direction down the track when they see it, which is A-OK with me. As one of the other turnback operators told me, the only time a horse forgets all that and runs through the barrier is when they’re “completely crazy”. Note he did not at all tell me it doesn’t happen every couple years, but I’ll trade the risk of trampling for front row seats to the chucks any day of the week.

Quite honestly, perk number one is the amazing red shirts everyone on the team gets. I didn’t know that was part of it before starting, and didn’t feel as much a part of the Stampede all week as I did when donning one. I’m still waiting for one of the spares to be delivered my way come Monday, fingers crossed.

Another funny observation was the sound of the crowd yelling towards you. I’m used to being in the Grandstands and screaming just being part of the general atmosphere, but when you stand out on the infield and they play the shell game on the Jumbotron with cowboy hats and everyone is yelling “TWO!!!!!!” and you ask the guy next to you on the chuck barrier why everyone’s yelling “BOOO!!!!!”, it’s somewhat more immersive.

I would apologize, but I got a lot of props from everyone on the team for not pulling out my iPhone and tweeting during the event while standing on the track, so thanks for bearing with me. One day left, can’t believe it!

What’s Happening at Stampede Park: Sunday, July 17

The final day of the Calgary Stampede brings the finals of many competitions on Park, from the Stampede Rodeo’s Showdown Sunday, the GMC Rangeland Derby finals, the finals of the Stampede Talent Search, and much, much more.

Here’s a taste of some of the things happening on Park today:

  • Showdown Sunday at the Rodeo! The top competitors of 2011 are ready to show their stuff and with a $1 million paycheque on the line for each event, Sunday’s performance will be incredible.
  • It’s Indian Village’s closing ceremonies today with lots going on. Stop by around 6 p.m. to see the official ceremonies although Indian Village will still be open until 11 p.m.
  • Last day to stop by Weadickville for 1912 prices! Be sure to beat the heat with a scoop of MacKay’s ice cream’s 2011 flavour, “pancakes.”
  • It’s the final day of 2011’s new Fashion Show where Calgary’s next top model will be named. Stop by the BMO Centre at 7 p.m. to see who wins!
  • New for 2011, the Jackpot Heifer show takes place today in the Northern Lights Arena from 11 p.m. to 1 p.m. Come watch as the best heifers in Canada compete for the top spot. May the best girl win!
  • Tonight is the finals of the 2011 Youth Talent Search. The show starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Boyce Theatre. This show will be absolutely packed – come early to get the best spot.

Sunday’s Music Scene:

Day Nine Results:

Day Nine News Releases:

With so much to see and do on Park and around town it’s tough to keep track of it all.  Make sure you have all the tools you need to Plan Your Stampede.  We have travel guides, suggested itineraries, and even an online version of the Stampede Planner.  If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or an iPad, make sure you grab the official Calgary Stampede app.

Finally, make sure you tune into our official Twitter feed at @calgarystampede and our official Facebook Fan Page for all the latest news, announcements and contest giveaways.

Waste Management Green Team Celebrates 39 Years of Clean Grounds for Visitors to Stampede

For 39 years, the Calgary Stampede and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary have partnered together to remove garbage from the Stampede grounds. For the past seven years, Waste Management of Canada (WM) has been sponsoring the work experience program.

This year, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary has recruited, hired, and trained 220 youth and 45 adult supervisors to clean the grounds as part of the WM Green Team during the 10 days of Stampede in a unique learn-to-work project that teaches young people how to work, and take pride in what they do.

The youth who are hired as team members of the WM Green Team will learn team work skills, time management, and expectations of the workforce. For many of these youth, this is their first job, and many will come back for several years, as they enjoy the experience so much. Some participants are new Canadians and even improved their English as they were working with many different youth. In the end, the WM Green Team receives valuable work experience, training, references, a pay cheque, and hopefully, a sense of belonging in their new country.

Each year youth tell the Stampede about their experience, many of them highlight the smell of the food on the Midway and meeting new people as their favourite moments.

“I think it is important to lead by example, so when people see me working on the WM Green Team, I hope it makes them think to pick up after themselves and recycle.” – Joey, 13 years

“My experience working on WM’s Green Team has taught me how to work with others and make positive choices” – Samantha, 16 years

“WM is dedicated to helping young Calgarians develop a strong sense of civic pride, teamwork and respect for the environment. We’re proud to support the Green Team program, because it provides fantastic opportunities for youth to learn important life skills,” – Diane Kossman, WM Communications Manager.

The Boys and Girls Club programs and services focus on identifying and creating opportunities that help young people acquire the building blocks to transition into self-sufficient adults. From recreation and leadership programs to a shelter for homeless youth, our programs and services are community-based providing life-enhancing skills to create positive outcomes for children, youth and their families.

What’s Happening at Stampede Park: Saturday, July 16

Day Nine of the Calgary Stampede is Wildcard Saturday at the Stampede Rodeo, as well as the semi-finals at the GMC Rangeland Derby.

Some of the other things happening on Park today:

  • It’s Wild Card Saturday at the Stampede Rodeo! The top four money winners in pool A and B are advancing to Showdown Sunday but for the remaining six competitors in both pools, Saturday is a one shot go for broke performance. Big money is on the line with the top two in each event advancing to Showdown Sunday. You do not want to miss this!
  • Only a couple more mornings to find free breakfasts around Calgary. Check out to locate a breakfast near you.
  • As the richest steer show in Canada, the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) Steer Classic draws the best of the industry. From 11 breed class winners, one will be crowned Grand Champion Steer and earn $10,000 in prize money. Stop by the Big Top at 2:30 p.m. to see the action.
  • If you’ve never tried Bannock, stop by Indian Village and pick yourself up some. The traditional food is deliciously addicting – you’ll be back for more! While you’re there, watch the adult pow wow at 3 p.m. or learn about the significance of Tipis at 6 p.m.
  • You could spend all day having fun at the Saddledome Plaza Entertainment Zone. Various shows play all day like the Stampede Showband, the Human Cannonball exploding across stage, Kids’ chuck challenge, Freestyle soccer and more. Stop by!
  • The weather is calling for sunshine so escape the heat in the Western Oasis. Browse art work, relax by tranquil water features, have a glass of wine, catch a speed artists drawing or watch sand artists work away at the giant masterpiece they’ve been designing for the past eight days.
  • The BMO Kids’ Zone is great for families. Located in Jaycee Park on the north side of the agriculture building, the area is filled with tons of activities. Meet one of your favourite characters, enjoy a fun family show, have your face painted and learn more about BMO SmartSteps® for parents. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Saturday’s Music Scene:

Day Eight Results:

Day Eight News Releases:

With so much to see and do on Park and around town it’s tough to keep track of it all.  Make sure you have all the tools you need to Plan Your Stampede.  We have travel guides, suggested itineraries, and even an online version of the Stampede Planner.  If you have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or an iPad, make sure you grab the official Calgary Stampede app.

Finally, make sure you tune into our official Twitter feed at @calgarystampede and our official Facebook Fan Page for all the latest news, announcements and contest giveaways.

Calgary Stampede Rodeo Day Eight

Today we talked to Chet Johnson a saddle bronc rider who last year rode an impressive six horses in one day. He rode five rides in one day last year. He said that riding that many horses in two hours is exhausting because your adrenaline flat lines and your muscles get more tired every horse. After Chet left the Stampede last year he went to Salt Lake City where he fractured his skull after coming off a horse. It took him six months to recover from his injury. He says it has changed his thinking and appreciation for every ride because it could be your last. He loves coming back to Calgary for the experience that he gets from the Stampede every year which he bring back home to help teach at a rodeo bible camp every June. He cant wait to ride tomorrow for wild card Saturday.

Ridin’ the guest chuck

When I found out the chair of the Chuckwagon Committee and Corb Lund are the people who have been given the same privilege, it sort of dawned on me how lucky I’ve been this last week. Also called the 101, right before the main chuck races around 7:50 I was lucky enough to get a go-round full speed with Devin Mitsuing expertly manning the helm. We had a bit of jittery start and only hit 1:19, but would have come 3rd in a few of the real heats, so it wasn’t no joke, top speed on the chucks is somewhere around 65 km/h. Feel free to check out my video here.

Getting a chance to get back in the actual competition stables behind the back stretch was also a real treat before my ride. Not only were all the members of the Chuckwagon Committe incredibly friendly (and provided incredible gnocchi with dinner) all the riders I came across were more than happy to say hello. One of the most interesting facts I learned was that they’ll actually share horses with each other for the races, and depending on barrel position at the start will opt for completely different teams to focus on acceleration versus top speed in an effort to get the rail. And even that isn’t necessarily the best position, the track is slightly banked for drainage, so if it’s been wet out, the dirt will be thicker lower down and slow the horses down.

Another interesting perspective for me was that I was in the pits for a NASCAR race in Phoenix in February (here`s another vid if you like), and where they run on engines and ethanol, I must admit I prefer the rustic hay-fuelled stallions of the chuckwagons. I had to make sure it wasn’t just me and asked Devin after the race if he had adrenaline coursing though his veins too, and he said where most people drink coffee to get going in the morning, he could just hitch up a team of 4 horses and let it fly. Thanks again to everyone in the barns for the incredible experience and I hope I run into some of the great folks again when I operate the turnback barrier Saturday.