Wild Diaries from Canada’s Calgary Stampede

I am not a cowboy. I tried to put together a Malm bed from Ikea the other day without directions and failed. I also am fucking terrified at getting bucked by a horse. But when you hear about the “biggest rodeo on earth”, and you have to plan a trip for 15 grown men from all over the world, you go to that rodeo.

Our Stampede trip started at Seatac Airport in Seattle, WA where we drank pretty phenomenal bloody marys and stuck out like a sore thumb in bulging yet necessary cowboy hats. Some of us coming from as far as Dubai, we rounded up the troops and before we knew it we were eating two foot long corn dogs and the few single men of our group were getting turned down by beautiful Canadian women unimpressed by our overwhelming eagerness to go to party town.

In the Cowtown of the West, the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, or what is better known as the Calgary Stampede, I looked around and in addition to the 14 other idiots, we were surrounded by a bunch of other man-children and buckle-bunnies all in the same place for the same thing: pure, unadulterated debauchery. This is what being at the biggest bro-fest on earth is like.

Somewhere between the setting sun on Thursday night butchering a square dancing party of some sort and Sunday morning coming down off of gallons of canadian booze and smokeless tobacco, I reflected on the golden hour of our group’s time together, and it was glorious. We arrived to the hotel in a 2006 stretch Lincoln Navigator chalk-full of Molson’s and cheap whisky and left in tiny taxi’s full to the brim with hungover fake cowboys and shitty pop-country ringing through our heads.

Calgary shuts down for Stampede. It fucking SHUTS DOWN. Seemingly every Calgarian is all in on this thing, from the tourist bars to the staple breakfast joints tucked into the heart of the urban core and spilling into the random people selling cowboy hats on the corners of the downtown corridors banking on dumbasses like us to pay $35 for cheap imitations of the real deal. It’s a party you can’t miss. The people are saints for putting up with the bullshit brought along with over-eager tourists, and looking down at our over-polished boots and dry-cleaned Wrangler shirts that looked more like George Michaels threw up all over a Western Wear store, we knew where we sat in the order of things.

Our first night in town we ventured out with no idea what to do besides find a smoldering hot dome to party in, and stumbled upon an oasis of gorgeous woman and swashbuckling men in the Wildhorse tent. By the end of the trip we realized this was the best place we could have discovered. With a little less fanfare than the other popular party spots (Cowboys Casino, Nashville North) and about the size of a football field, Wildhorse was the perfect size to wander around and chop it up with everyone. The music was on point, which alternated between a DJ playing Top 40 Country bullshit and a better than expected live AC/DC cover band appropriately titled BC/DC, and the setting was amazing. No sweaty carnival/festival vibes happening which was great. We danced for about 6 straight hours and broke in our boots then hit up the hot dog stand at about 3am before keeping the party rolling at the hotel. Side note: there is an option to garnish your hot dog with captain crunch cereal. Do not garnish your hot dog with Captain Crunch cereal.

And so the trip went on with a barrage of hootin’, hollerin’, spookin’ horses, blacked-out conversations with beer tub girls paid to show interest, bull-riding, fried-food eating and looks of disgust at our crude cut-off jorts. While taking a break from a band seemingly interested in being the shittier version of Rascal Flatts at the legendary Cowboys Stampede Tent Saturday night, we discussed just how nice (read: Canadian) everyone was. In a city absolutely overrun by drunkards dressed up like Woody from Toy Story for 10 straight days we couldn’t see any semblance of aggression or even annoyance given the setting. Then again, we could have just been completely ignorant and enjoying our 15th can of Molson’s Canadian.

We showed up in stiff Cowboy Cut Wranglers and left with rings of chew cans in our back pockets. Plus a hotel charge for extensive cleaning due to “stains consistent with alcohol and tobacco byproducts”. Plus no one died, and that’s all that matters. See you next year Stampede.