They have a saying ‘round these parts: “The Calgary Stampede is a marathon. Pace yourself.”
Those wannabe cowboys are wrong. The Stampede is a series of sprints. But you don’t have to run every race. Sit out a few.
Alberta’s most famous festival officially kicked off Friday, but plenty in Calgary are already on their seventh or eighth Stampede hangover. The Stampede stretches for 10 days, but pre-Stampede shakers were rocking in June. Surviving Stampede requires smarts, patience, and stamina. Consider this your guide. Consider this your warning.
When you go to the Stampede, be prepared to stand in line: for free pancakes and sausages in the morning;to get into the Stampede grounds in the afternoon;to get into the rodeo, the chuckwagons, Nashville North and downtown parties;to get on a ride, to eat diabetes-inducing mini-doughnuts;for a rye and coke;for the toilet after too many rye and cokes;to get out of the park when you’ve just had to much standing in line. Even when you are where you want to be, you’re still standing, like at the parade. And it doesn’t matter how long you stand around, you’re not getting a taxi. Start walking.
You don’t have to stand around long to witness the Stampede Trifecta: A hook-up, a break-up, and a fight. Bonus points if you see all three between the same two people in the same day.You can’t avoid all the standing. But there is no reason whatsoever to be standing in line to watch the demonstration on the latest lint-roller technology. Do not buy stuff – that’s all it is, is stuff – at the exhibition. That lint roller, even the one with the extendable arm, is not worth standing around for. And then you have to carry it all day. You’re the guy who came to Stampede, bought a lint roller, and are now standing around with it.
There are a few tricks Stampede vets exercise religiously. Want into Nashville North, the big party tent playing live country music and selling overpriced Bud Light Lime? Get in line when people start standing in line to get into the Grandstand for the rodeo or chucks. Nashville North clears out, you get in. Done.
Need to avoid the line at the washroom during the rodeo? Duck out a little early, just before the half-time break. Look, I know you want to go during the barrel racing, because who really watches barrel racing, but doing so makes you a jerk. Those ladies ride fast and hard, and deserve your attention. They spent big money to earn their spots here. Sit down. The line at the concession is 17 minutes long anyway, because everyone goes during the barrel racing.
There is pricey way to skip some lines. Some venues offer so-called “Chute Passes.” Cowboys, a well-known party tent, offers corporate passes for $4,000 (plus $324 in fees) for you and three guests to fly by the line twice a day. The passes are void during major concerts and DJ shows, and fire codes trump your four grand. Chute Passes can only do so much to impress your newfound honey.
Speaking of which, here’s another saying ‘round these parts this time of year: “It’s not cheating – it’s Stampeding.”
Wrong again. It is cheating – while Stampeding. Probably standing.