In last week’s blog, The Calgary Stampede – Part One, we shared our Calgary stampede Thursday with the Rangeland Derby and Grandstand Show. It seemed like a full day. But day one was just a warm-up for Friday and Saturday.
Friday, Deborah, Tara, Brandi, and I were headed to the afternoon rodeo before the evening headliner, Zac Brown Band. We would leave BAM at 11 am and return at 12:30 am the next day.
The close-in parking lot we paid for Thursday was full when we arrived Friday morning. The attendant told us to turn right at the end of the street and go into the parking lot at the Saddledome. This was strictly a VIP/sponsor lot. I think the attendant there was stunned when we pointed out who sent us. As he went to inquire, the Calgary stampede queen passed us on our right in a big, black limousine. Next, a second attendant looked into my window and said, “You guys okay?” In unison, a chorus of, “Yeah, we’re great” came from every seat in Willy as she waved us through. We parked 50 feet from the Saddledome, the site of this evening’s concert—for free!
Well played, Tara and Brandi; your reputation of talking your way into special places continues to grow.
My First Rodeo!
Back in February, I purchased two front-row seats in the infield grandstands for today’s rodeo. Even better, as we entered, Deborah surprised me when she declared “THIS IS MY FIRST RODEO.” I’ve never seen that T-shirt, but I wish I could have bought one for her!
The rodeo is not an entirely new sport like the previous evening’s Rangeland derby, but we were certainly novices. Prior to each event, the jumbo video board explained the rules, the technique, and the prize money. With that information, we watched like experts.
First, if you ever wanted a western name, we learned some new ones. There was Tuf and Timber and Sage and Ryder—to name just a few. The first event was bareback riding. These guys wear a cross between football gear and a NASCAR Hon’s device to keep from breaking their necks. They alternately bounce their head off the horse’s back with their legs up in the air before flying upright over the horse’s neck. They get bonus points for their spurs rubbing down the horse’s neck. Mason Clements won wearing his lucky blue shirt while riding a horse named Blue Bananas.
Next up at the Calgary stampede was calf roping. The calf doesn’t have much of a chance, as they rarely make it more that 30 feet before being lassoed, thrown to the ground and then having three of its hoofs tied together. One calf did dodge the lariat and was properly cheered. It didn’t do any showboating—like it had just escaped a tackle and scored a touchdown—but instead, just calmly trotted the length of the ring to the livestock gate.
To keep developing young cowboys, they threw in a junior steer riding competition for 15-year-olds to get their taste for hanging on or flying uncontrollably into the dirt. Next was the steer wrestling competition. The wrestler has a partner who rides along on onside of the steer. He herds it toward the wrestler, who jumps off his horse, grabs the steer’s horns, digs his heels into the dirt to stop the animal, and then flips it over so all its hoofs are in the air. I’m not sure if the partners split the purse 50/50.
Born to Buck
The first half of the show ended with a born to buck presentation. It was a truly touching moment. A little four-old-boy sat proudly on a giant golden palomino horse and hearded eight fillies and their young colts around the ring. The horse he commandeered was so big, and he was so small, that it was almost more suspenseful than the saddle bronc riding competition to follow.
Saddle Bronc Riding
Looking down the list of competitors in this event, I instinctively and correctly picked Ryder Wright to win on a horse named Xemplary Bubbles. Saddle bronc riding is the classic, picturesque rodeo event. It is rightfully romanticized in the poster celebrating the Charles M. Russell collection of paintings at this year’s stampede. I was amazed, when I looked through my photos, how many iconic bronc riding positions I had captured.
Women’s Barrel Racing
The women’s barrel racing was next up at the Calgary stampede. Two notes here: the women receive the exact same prize money as the men, and this was my favorite event of the afternoon. Hailey Kinsel remained undefeated in her group with her fourth straight win. She alternates horses, so each of them only has two wins. Two of her times have been under 17 seconds, which is world class.
Because the horses start, stop, and cut so violently when rounding the three barrels, they have to prepare the ground before and again halfway through the competition. It was done with a green tractor pulling a disk in the exact same pattern and precision as a Zamboni machine resurfaces a hockey ring. I guess the driver has summer and winter employment.
Finally, we were down to what I thought was the big event: bull riding. I know that these cowboys are the best in the world, but this is supposed to be the most extreme event in rodeo. I don’t know if the bulls were mellow today or the riders were that good. Not one rider was thrown. Even the announcer was in a bit of disbelief. In the end, everyone seemed thrilled that Sage Steele was judged the winner on a bull named Nickel Package.
Time for a Break
After a full afternoon in the sun, the dust and constant announcing of ten contestants in each of six events, we took a two-hour break off the stampede grounds to relax and eat. I know a big part of the stampede is the midway, but I had smelled enough poutine, BBQ, corndogs, fried pickles, and kettle corn that I had no desire to eat there.
Continuing this day of no end, we headed over to the sold out, 19,000-seat Saddledome to see Zac Brown Band. The Saddledome is certainly a historic building, being built as the host venue for the 1988 Winter Olympics. Those games are remembered for the debut of the Jamaica national bobsled team and the heroic failure of British ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. Movies were made about both.
America’s most memorable moment came from the battle of the Brians in men’s figure skating. Brian Boitano of the US ultimately defeated Canadian Brian Orser in a finale that I’m sure greatly disappointed all locals.
Zac Brown Band
I’m 70, but if the Rolling Stones can still preform at five years my elder, I can still enjoy great live rock music. I’m not used to standing up and dancing quite as much as I did this night, but the music pushed me forward. Zac Brown had the place sold out and jamming. He has a big band producing a lot of music. Sometimes I hear bits of Jimmy Buffett or Charlie Daniels in the music. If that doesn’t get your feet moving and your voice singing, I don’t know what will.
The Final Day
Finally, we were home from this long day with a bit of a reprieve coming on Saturday morning. The only event scheduled for that day was Jennifer Nettles and Sugarland in the evening. One final trip back into Calgary and the Saddledome. It wasn’t that easy.
The Bar Crawl
When I was young and we went to a bar, that’s what we did: went to one bar. According to our daughters, today it’s a bar crawl. One bar after another in a multiple-hour effort to get ever closer to the final destination. So, for the 7:30 pm concert, we left at 11:30 in the morning.
It started innocently with what was supposed to be brunch at Half Hitch Brewing Co. in Cochrane. The beer and Caesars were so good that we forgot the food. At that point, Deborah displayed her wisdom and became the “DD” as Tara, Brandi, and I crawled on. We did eat, if warm pretzels and artichoke dip qualifies, at the next stop, the Wild Rose Brewery.
We wanted to get closer to the Stampede, so through expert advise from the Wild Rose Brewery, we headed to The Ship and Anchor. In all subsequent conversations, the ladies referred to it as“The Whip and Spank Her.”
That would leave us about a mile walk from the night’s concert. This turned out to be our least-favorite bar, as a rockabilly band was playing. Fortunately, a few doors down, the girls found an English Pub called One Night Stan’s Bar Room and Divery. It seemed more of a match to where our personalities had by then degenerated.
To Park or Not to Park
The original plan was to walk the mile to the concert, as we figured parking would be a total mess on Saturday night. The vote, though, was to get in Willy and try for yesterday’s miracle spot next to the Saddledome. This time, I was in the backseat and was unanimously requested to be silent while Deborah pulled up to the guard. It was explained that we parked there yesterday. Somehow, the attendant agreed, although he did charge us $25 that day. We actually parked three spots closer to the door this time.
Jennifer Nettles and Sugarland
Jennifer Nettles has a very unique and powerful voice. Her first really big hit, “Baby Girl,” came out in 2004 after Tara had graduated from college. At the time, Tara was finding her way financially, and the song became like an anthem to her aspirations and dreams. It was a song that we loved, and we shared it with her. Even today, Deborah will still call Tara, Baby Girl.
Tonight, I watched with pride as she gleefully sang along with Jennifer:
Dear Mom and Dad,
please send money. I’m so broke, it ain’t funny.
After buying me drinks all afternoon, my heart told me that she was also thinking about the final verse.
I know that I am on my way.
I can tell every time I play
And I know it’s worth all the dues I pay
When I can write to you and say,
Dear Mom and Dad,
I’ll send money. I’m so rich that it ain’t funny.
It ought to be more than enough to get you through.
I still love you more than anything in the world.
Love, your baby girl.