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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Calgary :: Yee-Haw~! Stampede!

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I had a fantastic weekend in Calgary! After years of hearing about this Canadian rodeo, I finally got a chance to experience it! Calgary is usually a somewhat quiet city – the downtown core clears by 6pm as many retreat to suburbia. Then bam out come the cowboy hats, jeans, line dancing, and 11AM brews that don’t stop until 3AM.
I went to the Stampede Grounds 3 times – phew! The first was to watch the Grandstand show. I am not sure how to describe it. Think: Cirque du Soleil + Sexy Golden Horses + Ritalin. There was so much going on, I am not sure if it was sensory overload or just a really darn good show.

Horse warriors, strong men, and a train...
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And let’s not forget the giant wire-man, men running up and down a crescent, and very cute guys jazzing up and down a wall.
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Add fireworks, shooting flames, over a hundred singing and dancing children, a comedian and a million other things that I didn’t catch…and you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of the Grandstand Show.

Stampede-24I watched Chuckwagon Races, first in the stands and another time on the grounds. FYI for future travellers – it’s only $15 to go onto the ground, if you’re willing to stand to watch. If you want a great view of the show, this is a good option – but for the rodeo and the races, if you can grab a seat, you get a better view!

The races involves tossing a barrel and a couple of poles in the wagon, circling a barrel before pounding around a track. We yelled and screamed with the crowd, ridiculous amount of fun to watch over a sea of cowboy hats!

The Stampede Grounds had some pretty intense treats – deep fried oreos, deep fried cheesecake, deep fried pop tarts, deep fr – okay, you get the point. I stuck my nose up in the air and trotted past them to snobbily pick up a taco in a bag and a hot beef sundae from Homestead Grill. I loved and was revolted with myself at the same time:
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In case you’re wondering: taco in a bag is good (I like Doritos, so meat + Doritos = win), but the hot beef sundaes were swimming in far too much gravy and were salty like no other. Not that anyone is really watching their sodium intake when downing a cup of gravy, mashed potatoes, cheese, and a lone cherry tomato on top.

The weather was perfect – enjoyed some fishbowl margaritas at Los Chilitos on 17th and a one-man-band on Stephen Ave before heading off to the grounds…again. Big drink, perfect for a sunny patio day, I’d go back for a drink..but probably not for the food (from the looks of it).
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Stampede-61The Rodeo on Sunday was the best! We were lucky enough to grab tickets for the finals – cowboys tackling calfs, buckin’ broncos, and horse races – love love loved it! We snacked on more food fair while we were there – they were selling mini donuts in the stadium. While hot, they were not piping fresh like my beloved Little Nicky’s - next time, we are going to go right up to the booths to get 'em fresh!

We decided to be piggy-piggy and get a few more noshes. In true food festival style, we fanned out while I grabbed a slow cooked beef sandwich from Smokey’s, A snagged a pulled pork sammy (can’t remember the name of the vendor), while K snatched a steak poutine from the La Poutinerie

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Smokey’s had a lot of promise, as I watched the smoke billow out from the wagon…but I was sorely disappointed when they microwaved the sandwich with processed cheese. Le Sigh. ‘Twas a disappointment, as was the pulled pork. However, the poutine was really good! Probably the only item that I tried at the Stampede that I’d recommend you get:

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While yee-hawing, I received a message asking if I had prairie oysters yet. Being the silly tourist, I asked my friend how the heck did the prairies get a rep for oysters? A sly smile later, a plate of fried bull testes appear and we dig in.

“It tastes like chicken” – Me
“Really? I think it tastes like a potato” – S
“Dude…you’re eating a piece of potato” – Me

We had them at Bottlescrew Bills which was a great time – good spot to hit during Stampede or after work. We ordered the usual bar food – nachos (good!), wings (decent!), and random platter of dry ribs (salty) and dumplings (good!). The last shot (pun intended) was West which had weak drinks, blah bar snacks, but a fantastic rooftop patio. Go for the patio...not the food! Mind you, dinner might be a different story.

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Last, but definitely not least, we hit Wildhorse Saloon which was a ridiculous amount of fun! We danced with absolute strangers and laughed the whole night until the DJ called it quits. If you know me somewhat well, you will know that I hate dancing – but I was spinning, dipping, and hopping with the rest! Everyone was having a great time, and we trotted home with our cowboy hats, jeans, and cowboy boots (I went all out!) loving the Stampede. I hope to come back sometime! Calgarians, groan away but the Stampede made me fall in love with your city a little bit more :-). See ya next year, Stampede!
Oh, and what better way to end Stampede with a spinning chicken on the bbq? OM nom nom NOM!! I need a rotisserie!! We followed with a really random hypnotist show with Terry Stokes. Great weekend!!

Los Chilitos Taco and Tequila House on UrbanspoonWest Restaurant and Bar on UrbanspoonBottlescrew Bill's Old English Pub on Urbanspoon


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