‘Til Next Time!

Jovita: It has been diagnosed, I have Stampede Lag. It is like jet lag, only from not sleeping at the Stampede and then being thrown back into the real world Monday morning. But would I trade one minute of the Stampede I experienced for sleep? Never. The ten days of early mornings, late nights, and hot afternoons Arielle and I got to participate in can never be replaced. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the 100 year anniversary of the Stampede, let alone as an Ultimate Intern!

I could gush all day about all the events we got to go to, but you have already read those blog posts. Instead I will express my immense gratitude at being able to work with the Stampede and meet the staff and volunteers. Incredible patrons aside, the Stampede staff and volunteers put on the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth with hard work, pride, and hospitality and have blown everyone away with the centennial celebration. Happy Birthday Calgary Stampede, and thanks for the memories.

 

Arielle: I’m craving mini donuts, crazy rides, spectacular shows and two-stepping. But most of all I’m craving the people. Now that I am back to the real world, I have been asked many times what my favorite was at the Stampede. Easy – the people I’ve met.

I have fallen in love with Calgary and the Calgary Stampede all over again because of the dedication, energy and graciousness I have witnessed from volunteers, employees, and fellow Stampeders. Being present during all 10 days of the Calgary Stampede, let alone being backstage or front of the line for most of it, has been one of the most amazing things anyone can experience. I feel (oh so ridiculously) blessed to have been a part of this and am grateful to those who joined me in my adventures online. I hope you had a blast. Until next year. Xo.

 

Read our adventures here!

Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous

For your entertainment, I am sharing a few insights about the notable people I met during my Stampede experience.

 

Paul Brandt.

He’s down-to-earth. Instead of small talk and taking a quick photo, Paul made a point to ask his fans questions about their personal life. From his questions to his “thank you’s” he did not rush, truly appreciating that we were thrilled to meet him. It was amazing to see how Paul truly cared about who his fans were.

He graduated from Mount Royal – just like me! While talking, we realized we had something in common – our love for Mount Royal. He graduated from Nursing in 1992, and was hoping to eventually become a doctor – but then a record deal showed up!

He is ridiculously good looking.  (okay… maybe I already knew that!)

He loves his wife. When talking to Paul, I told him how I loved seeing his wife perform with him at the Saddle Up event. His eyes lit up at the mention of her. He expressed how he was thankful and excited he was to have her on stage with him. So cute.

 

Aaron Pritchett.

He parties hard. With singles such as “Hold My Beer” and “Let’s Get Rowdy”, I think this is quite obvious. But you need to see him perform to truly understand his love for partying – including shot-gunning countless beers on stage. Impressive.

He loves his band. I’ve never seen a performer engage and announce his band members as many times as he did. He also did not fail to let the ladies know his buddy on the keyboards was single. (Good to know!)

He is passionate about Canada. Born in British Colombia, his love for his country is obvious. The song he performed most passionately? “Oh Canada”. And he got the whole crowd to sing it with him.

He could be a comedian. My stomach hurt from laughing the next morning. This could be a great back up if his singing career doesn’t work out (yeah right!)

 

Terry Grant (previously called Man Tracker).

He volunteers. We met Terry when hanging out with the Racetrack Maintenance crew during the Chuckwagon races. He is a part of the Chuckwagon committee, and was busy overseeing the flow of the chuckwagon races. It was warming to hear about his passion for the Chuckwagon committee.

He’s not as scary as he looks. While many think he is mean after seeing him in his television show, Man Tracker, I am sure it’s staged. We saw a different side of Terry. He is a truly nice guy: calm, collective, and eloquent with his words.

 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

He’s not just a mayor, he’s a celebrity. It was hard to get a word in with Nenshi before and after the Century Zipline. Why? He was being bombarded with people who wanted to talk to him or get a photo with them. Calgarians love him.

He has fears. Before jumping on the Zipline, Nenshi shared with us a few fears. Yes, he was scared of the height of the Zipline, but most of all, he was afraid of getting stuck in the middle of it. That would have given us a good story (and laugh), but lucky for Nenshi, it never became an issue. 


Mike Casey. (pictured above)

He’s cool.  Picture this. A 60-something-year-old man who goes by Mike (not Michael nor Mr. Casey), who does not blink when it comes to Ziplining 180 feet over crowds of people. How cool is that?!

He can make friends with anyone. His charm can capture anyone’s attention as he chats with every single person he came across. Days after meeting him, he saw us milking a cow in front of a small crowd and made a point to say “hi!”.

His passion for the Calgary Stampede and Calgary is contagious. Mike beamed when he talked about Calgary, as well as the Calgary Stampede. He was excited about the Stampede’s centennial and everything it was bringing to the city. I left feeling warm and bubbly about Calgary and the Calgary Stampede.

 

Garth Brooks.

He is in love. (and oh man, is he ever!) I was touched by the love that Brooks and Yearwood had for each other. I love love. I found myself singing (to the tune “I wanna love like Johnny and June”): “I wanna love like Garth and Trisha!”

He is incredibly humble. He was so very grateful for the crowd’s energy and warmth. His positive reactions towards the crowd after each song made me want to cheer louder for him (unfortunately my voice wouldn’t let this happen).

His family is his number one. Garth constantly mentioned his wife and his daughters. He even hinted that he may come out of retirement once his youngest daughter graduates (she is currently 16). I think she should do everyone a favour and graduate early…

 

Sophie Sumners.

She can make anything classy with her accent. Not many can say “I don’t want anyone to see my naughty bits”, “bloody hell that is terrifying!” or “my! you’re a legend!” and sound as elegant.

She is terrified of heights. We dragged the poor girl to the Zipline, on many midway rides, and to the Flowrider. Was she emotional and horrified? Absolutely. But she smiled the whole way through.

She is always up for an adventure. As I mentioned, we brought her on some extreme rides. She didn’t miss a beat, sparkling whether or not the rides scared her.

She’s real.  Sophie showed me that despite fame, one can be genuine and kind. We had a great connection and were able to talk about things that really matter in life.

 

 

Dragonette.

Martina is goofy. Lead singer Martina was all smiles when people oohed and awed over her. The positive upbeat about her and her silly comments eased the tension of some nervous fans during the meet and greet.

Dan & Martina are in love. The exchanges of glances, smirks, and a back massage (that we accidentally walked in on) made that connection quite obvious. Too cute.

 

 

Scooter Korek.

He’s not just a boss – he is a respected leader. Although an executive at North American Midway Entertainment, Scooter takes the time to say hi to every team member at the Midway. It’s a big team, but he doesn’t fail to generate a big smile from each one he walks by. They love him, treating us like royalty when seeing we were with him. Upon further research, I found out this positive relationship was genuine – he was an instrumental part in the development of the Employee Award Program.

He is gracious. He gave us both his cell number if we wanted to go on rides again – no line, no cover. Days later, we gave him a shout to show Sophie Sumners around the Midway. No problem – he took the time out of his busy day to escort us around.

He started in Calgary. Although he travels with the Midway around North America, his home base is here. He started in the amusement industry 35 years ago with the Calgary Stampede itself!

Canadian UFC Fighters 

They’re terrified of heights. Tough men scared to go down the Zipline? Hilarious.

 

Adrenaline Addictions & a Flying Paul Brant

Arielle: I don’t like saying no to new adventures. Meaning, I was going to go on the two largest rides at the Stampede: the Slingshot and Skyscraper.

 

I went on these two rides on the last day. I had a hard time convincing someone to come on with me for the past nine days – including my usually brave teammate, Jovita. The Slingshot was great (in the video I am beaming and cheering, while my friend beside me is hanging on for dear life, eyes squeezed closed). The Skyscraper is a whole ’nother story. It’s the tallest ride on the grounds, spinning you from ground to sky, high above the city at 70kmph.

 

It’s the waiting that kills you. You have people behind you and in front of you – all joining in on your panic, discussing the scenarios of dying on the ride. I couldn’t help but ask the gentleman working there: “How many people have died on this ride?” He replied, unsure, “Zero in twelve years.” I couldn’t help but think what happened thirteen years ago…

 

Because I cannot explain the intensity of my fear, here’s a play-by-play of my experience:
   I changed my mind – I want off.
   I can’t get out.
   Oh no, we are goin…,
   Stop the ride!
   Hey, this is fun!
   This is going to be okay!
   That is downtown UPSIDE-DOWN.
   Oh no, we are stopping.
   Please stop swaying.
   I’m gonna die.
   Tell my family I love them.
   Get me off of this.
   I regret this decision.
   They are going to put us backwards.
   No!
   No, too fast!
   No!
   Slowing down – thank goodness!
   I’m alive!

 

Yes, I was shaken to the core after this ride, but because I live for this kind of adrenaline, I can assure you I will be on it again next year!

 

Jovita: Even though I had been dying to see Paul Brandt in the Grandstand show since the first day of Stampede, due to our busy schedule I saw the last possible show on Sunday.

 

The show was preceded by the Rangeland Derby trophy presentation and a special white hat ceremony for the young international performers participating. The Young Canadians were (as usual) flawless, showing off their impersonating talents; with my favourite part of the show: a Patsy Klein, Dolly Parton, Shania Twain and Taylor Swift tribute.

 

Paul made a high-flying entrance, but he wasn’t the only one. Hoop dancer, Dallas Arcand, flew in on a golden-lit eagle, landing on the stage with poise and tackling a intricate hoop dance. There was a giant birthday cake and collective Happy Birthday chorus paired with the firework show. Stampede President Mike Casey came on stage after to officially close the Stampede, and I found myself wondering where all ten days had gone!

Two Guys & Their Guitars

Arielle: I’ll admit it – I had that “Garth Guilt” that Mike Morrison has been talking about. I kept my ticket a secret until we were headed to the concert, tiptoeing that we were lucky enough to see Garth Brooks perform. It took every bone in my body to not give up my ticket to friends and family that were dying to see him.

 

When we got there I realized I had goosebumps! The noise in that Saddledome was deafening, the energy electric. To even be a part of that crowd before Garth performed was an experience in itself.

 

Being a hopeless romantic, my favourite part was when Garth’s wife, Trisha Yearwood, surprised us by coming onto the stage to perform with Garth. The crowd was just as welcoming to Trisha as they were for Garth – shaking the Saddledome with cheers. The way Garth and Trisha looked at each other was nothing short of romance – there’s no way that kind of love can be staged. After a few songs and a big smooch, Trisha left to be encored right back, singing “She’s in love with a boy” (to be stuck in my head the entire next day, singing it to strangers when telling them about my experience).

 

Garth was good-natured about the attention that Trisha got from the crowd. Saying: “Just to remind you: you’re at a Garth Brooks concert tonight!” as well as, “I get called Mr. Yearwood back at home”.

 

Our friend, Calgary Stampede President, Mike Casey came onto stage and presented both Garth and Trisha with beautiful Centennial belt buckles. Trisha did not miss a beat – and after some help from Garth – put the buckle on her belt in front of the roaring crowd (a lesson I’m assuming she learned from last year, when Calgarians were disappointed when Will and Kate did not put on their white hats straight away).

 

Other highlights of the concert?

  • How Garth kept basking in the love the crowd gave him. He was grateful and humble, displaying happiness through and through to be up there performing for us.
  • Garth saying he doesn’t sing the third verse of “Friends in Low Places” anymore. The crowd had no problem belting it out for him.
  • Along with his band, Garth ensuring that the entire crowd was involved. He performed at every edge of the stage possible: singing behind, to the side, and at the front.
  • The sweat Garth kept throwing off his face. The cameras captured it perfectly so that the crowd could see the true intensity of his performance.
  • The second encore. After the first encore finished, we just hadn’t had enough. All the lights went back on, but the crowd was still going wild, coaxing Garth back onto stage for a third time.

The next day my ears hurt from the noise, my mouth hurt from smiling, and my voice hurt from screaming. That’s confirmation in itself that Garth Brooks was perfect.

 

 

Jovita: I’ve been looking forward to Brad Paisley’s concert for ages. Long before I won the Ultimate Intern contest, I had purchased tickets to see him perform. The wait was worth it. If I thought nothing could top Garth Brooks, I was wrong. (This statement might get me in trouble with some of the Garth fans, but for me, Brad is in a whole different category).

 

The show started with light shows blasting through screens and some of the best effects I have ever seen. There were many cheers when Kimberly Perry from The Band Perry came to accompany on “Whiskey Lullaby” and even more when a digital Carrie Underwood appeared to sing “Remind Me”. The tour lived up to its’ name, “Virtual Reality”.

 

Brad’s skill on the guitar is something I have never witnessed before, with him running through the crowd while not missing a chord. He was deft at changing guitars almost every song without ever knocking his cowboy hat off. Before the encore, Brad exited the stage by jumping into a pool after the tune “Water”. There was a quick meet and greet. I was too smitten to say anything more than “Hi!”, but got a photo out of it!

Chatting with Cops, Ziplining with the Famous, Bare Bottom Surfing & Cricket Pizza

Calgary Police Services

Jovita: We met up with the Calgary Police Services to explore the Stampede grounds together, and get a feel for what it’s like to work at the Calgary Stampede. The officers were on duty in the Indian Village so we accompanied them there. We donned Indian Princess hats and stared in awe at all the colourful outfits. A few of the tipis were open for inspection and we wandered around with our escorts until we reached the CPS tipi. It came complete with unique crest and the promise of an invite to the Indian Village.

 

Arielle: I asked one of the officers about his experience as a Policeman at the Calgary Stampede. He told me that about five years ago he considered retiring as a cop. And then he moved to Calgary. He explained to me how Calgary is different. Here, cops are a part of the Calgary community; they are appreciated and trusted. As a cop, wearing a cowboy hat around the city is a great symbol of this alliance. He loves the Calgary Stampede and working at it. It’s a different pace for him – filled with high excitement and welcoming people.

All this love, respect, and appreciation? This is exactly why I love my city.

 

Zipline

Arielle: I didn’t think I was scared of heights, but when you are 118 feet above crowds of people about to Zipline over them, I am sure you would panic too. The first time we ziplined was with Mayor Nenshi and Stampede President, Mike Casey, the second time with America’s Next Top Model, Sophie Sumners. Climbing the stairs was a workout in itself, terrifying me more and more as I climbed up each new set of scaffolding. Both times it took some convincing for me to go down (the first time, a shove), while Jovita took the ziplining with ease, even going upside-down.

 

(Note: There’s a whole lotta of fear behind those smiles.)

 

FlowRider

Jovita: Arielle and I managed to find time on Saturday to take a quick trip to the beach! It wasn’t very far away, just the beach located in the BMO center, complete with oversized sandcastle and the Flowrider, an indoor surfing machine. We got to have the first ride of the day, which was nice because there wasn’t a lot of fans at first to watch our failed rookie attempts at staying upright on the board. By about the fourth time, I seemed to get the hang of it and managed to do some weaving.

 

 

I was feeling pretty good about myself until Dan the demonstrator took over and was spinning around in the water, jumping on the top of the half pipe and riding up and down the wave with ease. Even though I fell a lot, I managed to make most of them as graceful as possible while sheets of water are rushing at you. Arielle was not so lucky. Every fall seemed to get more ridiculous than the last, with the grand finale being Arielle’s bare bottom accidently exposed to the cheering crowd.

 

Cricket Pizza

Arielle: On Twitter last Saturday, I asked my followers to give me some Stampede dares. One of the few dares that did not have serious repercussions was to eat Cricket Pizza. Now last Saturday, I was game for it. But after an entire week of thinking about the creepy crawlers, I had the jitters.

 

The worst part? Seeing the crickets face-to-face. I only have two words: absolutely horrifying. They appeared to be looking at me in their dead state. One even seemed to be praying before it had been cooked.

 

My first bite into the pizza wasn’t bad, I felt confident! Until I had felt a weird crunch. The cricket tasted like sunflower seeds (needless to say: I don’t like sunflower seeds anymore). After some minor panicking, I finished a good portion of the pizza. I offered it to random strangers… got some weird looks and a few laughs but they wouldn’t try it. I guess their moms told them to never accept cricket pizza from strangers.

 

A word of advice: if you’re gonna eat cricket pizza, be prepared for cricket legs in your teeth <<shudder>>. Reginald – thank you for the dare – it might have been terrible, but a great adventure.

Square dancing, Tequila shots, Chicken Poop Bingo & Old Time Rigs

On Tuesday, we were up bright and early to join a mini parade, blocking downtown with Old Time Rigs (which are antique horse drawn carriages). We were with the Downtown Attraction Committee (DTA), about to enjoy some downtown festivities in the hot sunshine. What’s the DTA’s background? This group started in 1947 with a group of square dancers, travelling downtown in the back of a rig, dancing. Sounds like a party and the DTA today reflects just that.

 

We hopped off the Old Time Rig and walked to Olympic Plaza. Here, we enjoyed a chuckwagon sandwich: pancakes & bacon.

 

Next up: square dancing on Stephen Ave. The excitement from the Fluor Square Dancing Team was contagious – I was quickly thrown into dancing. Either I was born to square dance, or Wilson is quite the coach. I found myself confidently square dancing a storm smack in the middle of Stephen Ave. I’ll never look at this street I walk down during my lunch break the same. (Note: the Fluor Square Dancing team is on the lookout for more young, male square dancers to keep the tradition alive. Guys: trust me on this one – women dig men who can dance.)

 

After quick recuperation from the heat with water and shade, it was time to meet the Hosting Committee at the Royal Canadian Legion Calgary #1. Steps in, we were greeted and offered drinks. Now when I am offered a free drink, I always suggest shots of tequila.  But the group did not know me well enough to realize I was kidding. Well… turns out the Hospitality Committee poured us double shots of tequila. Yuck. But we shot them; had some good laughs, a hilarious photo, and the end result wasn’t too bad either (like they say, it’s five o’clock somewhere).

 

A big source of excitement for the DTA is their pet chicken, Buffy. Chicken poop bingo (“which square will Buffy do her business on”) could quite possibly be a reason why they love Buffy so much. As soon as we realized what was happening, Jovita whispered to me: “I could get into this kind of gambling”.

 

While the crowd was cheering on Buffy, I looked and saw, to my horror: decapitated mascots. The DTA has 10 mascots, including: a pig, goose, beaver, cow, horse, bear, cowboy, moose, racoon, bull, Jack, and (a very promiscuous) Jackie. These mascots are a part of this community through and through, and took off their mascot heads to enjoy the fun (nonetheless scared me)! After some good laughs, I tried a mascot’s head on. It’s not as fun as you would think… I think claustrophobia was kicking in.

 

This team is full of energy and warmth. After finding out there are over 325 volunteers in this committee, I know there is a lot more happening behind the scenes. Thank you to the DTA team and DTA sponsor, Fluor Engineers Constructors, for creating such free excitement downtown. Your graciousness does not go unrecognized.

Farming Amongst the Skyscrapers

BMO kids day started with going to the pancake breakfast and showing off her newly acquired flapjack talents (thank you Stampede Caravan Committee!). Volunteers from the Stampede and BMO alike flocked to the stations and the families were fed and watered. Jovita met the BMO Junior Reporters, who were big celebrities at the breakfast. They were being interviewed by TV stations, had a personal camera man who followed them around, and even got a special balloon hat from the clown (jealous!). There could not have been a more worthy pair in the crowd, their smiles were infectious.

 

At lunch time on kid’s day, we went to collect fresh milk for the cookies in our RV (yum!).            We met Debbie Lee, who showed us the new Alberta Milk display, which has a practice milking machine! We both beat the posted farmer’s time (but may have a had a helping hand from Debbie). Now that we had earned our milking stripes, it was time to try it out on Holstein Delilah. We brought her outside so that the kids could watch as Jovita struggled and Arielle excelled in the hand milking portion. After this we deftly attached the machine and Debbie explained the pasteurization process to the kids. Even though right after we were done Delilah decided to poop on our boots, we both managed to give her some love in the form of nose kisses.

 

We spent the afternoon hanging out at the Barns with the Calgary Stampede Chuckwagon Committee. Walking through the Shed Rows was nothing short of surreal. The horses were strong, beautiful, and spirited. Arielle felt like she was in the movie Seabiscuit.

(Arielle: I’m not gonna lie – I’m okay with cows, but there’s something about horses that terrify me. I’m pretty sure this one wanted to eat me.)

 

 

 

If you’ve been to the Stampede this past week, you will understand how uncomfortable we were from the heat at times. Well, thank the lucky stars, we found some AC – followed by loud cheering from the two of us.

A ride in a big green tractor

 

This Monday we had an afternoon of Midway madness! First we got a behind-the-counter look at how Those Little Donuts are made. It is an art, and one we aren’t very good at. Of course Arielle insisted that we should do some “quality control” and taste the donuts. Let’s just say we are better at eating donuts then making them.

 

After being fired from the Little Donut shop, we met up with Scooter from North American Midway. Scooter helped us beat the lines on some of the most popular rides in the park. We braved the Outlaw roller coaster, the Niagara Falls log ride and Arielle even flew around on the Freak Out. Going on the rides made me realize how many employees it takes to make the whole show go off without a hitch.

In the evening it was time for a tractor ride! After the first heat of the chucks, I rode along in the tractor while Arielle was in the water truck. The maintenance crew gentlemen were surprised at how excited we were. Many people seemed shocked to find me in the tractor, I kept getting double takes from the crowd and some even waved at me! Being by the barns was dangerous for us since we always had our noses stuck to our phones and almost got run over by Kelly Sutherland.

Our next blog post will include details of our Centennial Zipline adventure with Stampede President Mike Casey and Mayor Nenshi! Follow us on Twitter to see updates all day: @arielleland and @jovitabyzitter.

Flippin’ Flapjacks and Buckin’ Bulls

Arielle: We woke up to sunshine & the anticipation of once again meeting the Calgary Stampede Caravan Committee (we met them at the Saddle Up event, and knew the type of energy we were to be surrounded by).

 

First up, we were sent to the grills. Those who know me know that I am a terrible cook (I’m working on it…). But I wanted to flip some pancakes, so I did not reveal my secret to the Caravan committee. Turned out, I am quite the flipper and I can make some pretty cute Mickey Mouse pancakes. There were some mishaps: I burnt a few batches of pancakes because I was busy tweeting or chatting with the crowd. Also, a friendly team member “accidently” spilt some pancake batter on my feet.

 

I didn’t want to get all cheesy on you here, but these are the type of people that keep me believing in the human race. There is no lack of enthusiasm and positivity from this team, coupled with efficiency. Keeping in mind this is all volunteer work, their commitment has left approximately a hundred thousand people with full stomachs and a smile on their face.

 

A hundred thousand breakfasts means:

  • 200,000 pancakes (that’s enough batter to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool!)
  • 5 tons of pancake mix
  • 2 tons of sausage patties
  • 110,000 juice boxes and,
  • 2,000 litres of maple syrup.

 

And their breakfasts? Other than my burnt pancakes, they were unreal.

Hats off to everyone there: including Debbie Flanagan, Helen Clease, Keith Waldron, & Kevin Klein for spreading the love in our city! Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

Jovita:

In the afternoon it was time for bulls and blood, dust and mud! We had excellent infield tickets, the closest we have ever been to the chutes! You can practically see the sweat on the cowboy’s foreheads. Arielle got a much needed lesson from me about the rules and regulations of the rodeo events, she looked pretty confused at first. Our favourite event by far is the wild pony races, the little guys have so much heart and hang on for dear life even when they are being dragged around the entire enclosure. Aaron Roy gave a performance in the bullriding event that left the whole crowd craning their necks to see the 8-second ride and a standing ovation on his victory lap.

 

More Stampede Adventures!

I cannot believe how many events have happened since our last blog post! Don’t worry, I’ll make sure you won’t miss a minute of our adventures.

At the end of our first day, Friday, we participated in the semi-secret Young Canadian’s Grandstand flashmob! We met the dance coach, Michelle, backstage where she gave us a quick lesson before we went out on to the tarmac. The performers from the Young Canadians were still better than us, and they tried to give us some tips so we didn’t embarrass ourselves too badly. Participating in the mob was an experience that reminded me of the “Greatest Together” theme of the Stampede, since it got young and old in the crowd up and dancing.

There was some smokin’ hot rodeo action yesterday afternoon, so I decided to find a place to cool off. I beat the heat in the Western Oasis Wine Garden. If you need a place to unwind, this is your place – be sure to sit by the falling waterfall fountains.

Next up on my schedule for the day was a surprise meet-and-greet with Paul Brandt. Looking back, it’s mostly a blur. It goes like this: you say hi, and he talks to you like you’re old friends and then you forget to breathe because you are so overwhelmed that Paul Brandt is talking to you and then it’s over. He is such an incredibly talented man, go check out the Century show if you have time, his stage presence is unrivalled.

 

Last but not least, I went to Canada Olympic Park to watch the Transalta Light Up the City fireworks. I met up with Graham and Andrea from the Stampede Next Generation Committee and together, we were introduced to the family who pushed the official plunger that starts the fireworks. The Stampede Royalty showed up and stole the show with their charming smiles, but I managed to sneak in a photo with them. COP is a great location to watch the fireworks off park, there is a nice deck to sit on and lots of parking!

Today is Family Day at the Stampede. You will hear from Arielle and I later on about our flap-jack flippin’ morning with the Stampede Caravan crew. More to come…

Follow us for live updates on Twitter: @jovitabyzitter and @arielleland!

 

2012 Ultimate Interns – What a start!

Hi from your Calgary Stampede Ultimate Interns! We are all moved into our RV – and they were not kidding, it is in the heart of the midway! It is a hop, skip, and a jump away from many places! It’s the perfect base for us these next 10 days and it already feels like home.

 

Last night at Sneak-a-Peek, ENMAX Corral show Tails opened. The narrations were powerful. One narrator was the talented Tom Jackson, whose rich voice is enough to send shivers down your spine and make you reminisce about those days in the 90’s when you watched North of 60. Animals were incorporated into the play – birds, horses, and even a buffalo! Who knew you could strap a saddle to a buffalo and ride him around a ring? Every time he (she?) came near the edge of the enclosure, Jovita leaned wayyy back – being so close to such a powerful animal was thrilling.

 

This morning we were up bright and early as the Official Parade Tweeters!

 

It was our first live tweeting experience for the Stampede this year, and we had the best seats in the house. We were eyes in the sky on the Castlewood TweetSeats, complete with security guards (compliments of the Calgary Fire Department)!

 

We handed out white centennial bells, encouraging noise and excitement for the parade. The sunshine, crowd, floats, and bands made our morning perfect. Our top 5 favourite things participating in the parade included:

  • The Stampede royalty alumni – you ladies still have it!
  • The standing ovation and loudest of cheers for the Canadian Forces.
  • The colourful native outfits and headdresses.
  • Ian Tyson cowboy saluting us (Yahoo!).
  • The talented marching bands from all over the world.

What are we up to tonight? We can’t tell you… yet. All we can say is that we are really excited. Stay tuned!

If you see us roaming around the grounds, please say hi! We are excited to meet more amazing people these next 9 days! To capture our adventures, follow us on Twitter (@arielleland & @jovitabyzitter).

It’s intern time!

For the second annual Ultimate Intern contest, a team of two “Ultimate Stampede Interns” will experience The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth like never before. Not only will the interns receive a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take part in exclusive and unique experiences at the Centennial Stampede, they will literally live on Park for the full 10 days!  The interns will video stream, tweet and blog their experiences on Facebook, twitter, CS blog and YouTube.

If you want to become the Ultimate Intern team, grab a friend, submit your 60 second video and tell us why your duo deserves the ultimate internship!   

Submission deadline has been extended to Sunday, May 13, 2012, so get those cameras rolling!  Fan voting will be from May 14 – 22, 2012 and the Ultimate Stampede Interns will be chosen  for the greatest 10-day experience on Wednesday, May 30, 2012.

The prize package includes:
•Trailer accommodations located on Stampede Park

•Backstage and exclusive access to unique Stampede experiences

•Full 24-hour access to Stampede Park for the entire 10 days

•Two iphones

•$1,000 CASH

•$100 Gift Card to the Stampede Store PER INTERN!

•VIP Nashville North night

•Rodeo tickets  

•$50 Midway Card for rides for each intern

•$500 in food and beverage vouchers

•Four gate admission passes (which can be used for family or friends) for each intern

Learn more and enter your submission here:

www.calgarystampede.com/ultimateintern

 

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!

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!

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.