The Calgary Stampede has been a tradition for decades in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
For 10 days every July, the event can cause some confusion for first- time visitors to the area who are unfamiliar with the Stampede.
"From the downtown streets to the airport, everybody is wearing western attire," said Jennifer Booth, publicity team manager handling public relations for the Stampede's National Public Relations Department.
For the event, locals give up their normal way of life and go back to the ways of the old west, said Booth. Waitresses, doctors, lawyers and business people shed their spiffy uniforms and stiff business suits and don blue jeans, cowboy hats, western shirts and boots, she said. Everybody celebrates the occasion.
"You can almost hear people wondering – why is everybody dressed like a cowboy?" she said.
The Calgary Stampede started in one of Canada's biggest cities way back in 1886, just two years after Calgary was incorporated as a town and was home to only 500 people. The Calgary and District Agricultural Society was formed, and it was the agricultural society that produced the first fair on October 19 and 20.
By 1888, the society purchased 94 acres of land from the Dominion of Canada. Shortly thereafter, the society started improving the site with a race track, cattle sheds and an exhibition building. The land on the Elbow River, christened Victoria Park in 1889, has continued to be the site of the Calgary Stampede ever since.
The stampede started as a way to preserve the ideals and values of the western way of life. True to its roots, agriculture is showcased in fascinating ways that educate and entertain young and old. Visitors to the event can thrill to the skill and speed of a cutting horse competition, or admire the majestic Heavy Horse Show presented by Halliburton. A multi-faceted world of agriculture opens up every day during the ten days in July.
The event this year started on July 4 and continued through July 13, with daily shows, rodeos, events and entertainment. The stampede is meant to promote western heritage and takes advantage of 47 volunteer committees and 2,200 volunteers to put on the show.
"Our volunteers are the heart and soul of the stampede," said Booth. "The president of the stampede is a volunteer. Everybody gets into the spirit."
Admission is $16 for adults ages 13 to 64 and $8 for children ages 7 to 12 and for senior citizens 65 and older. Children 6 years old and younger are admitted free. And there were a number of special deals and value days that visitors could take advantage of.
On Sneak-A-Peek Thursday, July 3, the park opened at 5 p.m., and admission was $8 for all. The park was open until midnight. The midway was also opened from 5 until midnight, with regular midway prices in effect. Indoor attractions and commercial exhibits were also opened during the same times.
Suncor Family Day, from 9 a.m. until midnight on Sunday, July 6, offered free admission from 6 until 9 a.m. There was a free morning show in the grandstand from 7:30 until 10 a.m. and a free breakfast for the first 20,000 guests in the grandstand courtyard. Tickets were required to receive breakfast.
Western Heritage Day, on Tuesday, July 8, offered free admission all day for seniors 65 and over. Seniors and accompanying guests were admitted beginning at 9 a.m. The park opened to the general public at 11 a.m. There was free coffee and donuts in the new Agrium Western Events Centre from 9 until 10 a.m.
There was also free standing room tickets to the rodeo and evening show for seniors only.
On BMO Kids Day, Wednesday, July 9, children 12 and under were admitted free between 7 and 9 a.m. if accompanied by an adult. The children also received a free breakfast between 8 and 9:30 a.m. and got to watch a free variety show on the grandstand stage.
Professional rodeos were held twice a day, every day, in the afternoon and at night. Bronco riding was one of the popular events, according to a press release. Rhythm is the key in this event, experts say. The rider moves his feet from the horse's neck in a full arc toward the back of the saddle in time with the bronc's action. The cowboy must ride in a saddle built to professional rodeo specifications with a braided rein connected to the horse's halter. The cowboy uses this rein for balance.
The rider will be disqualified for touching any part of the horse or his equipment with his free hand, losing a stirrup or being bucked off before the end of the eight-second ride.
Likely the most dangerous event in the rodeo, bull riding is also extremely popular at the stampede. A rope with a handhold braided in t is wrapped around the bull with a weighted cowbell hanging underneath allowing the rope to fall free when the ride is complete. The rope is pulled snuggly around the bull's girth, and is kept tight only by the strength of the cowboy's grip.
During the ride, the cowboy tries to stay close up on the rope's handhold to prevent his arm from straightening and his hand from breaking loose. A bull rider is disqualified for touching the bull with his free hand or bucking off before the end of the eight-second ride.
During the steer wrestling event on Saturday, July 12, one of the steers sustained a severe injury that was untreatable. As a result, the steer was humanely euthanized, said Booth. The Calgary Stampede will conduct a thorough review to determine if there were any contributing factors to the incident that could have been prevented, officials said in a press release. This was only the third seriously injured steer in the last decade, according to the release.
Country singer Reba McEntire put on one of the most popular entertainment shows, Booth said. McEntire appeared on Sunday, July 13. Adam Oppenheim, managing director of Stampede Concerts Inc. called McEntire "one of the most successful female recording artists in history."
She has sold more than 80 million Albums worldwide and is a member of the Country Music Hall of fame and Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. McEntire is known internationally, and that's exactly where the Calgary Stampede went to advertise their event, said Booth. It was advertised worldwide.
"Our advertising is done year around," said Booth. "We don't disclose the budget, but we use TV, radio, newspaper print and social media in several different countries."
The rides on the midway were provided by North American Midway Entertainment. Ride-all-day wristbands during the week were $53 and $58 on the weekend. Rides included the skyscraper, slingshot, rockwall and Eurobungy. The Stampede midway also had enough games to satisfy every level of game fanatic, according to Booth.
Over the 10-day period of the event, 1,263,428 people attended, said Booth. She said the weather was "phenomenal," with temperatures in the high 80s.
Overall, the 2014 Calgary Stampede was a tremendous success.