BRING OUT THE IN­NER COW­BOY

PACK THE AKUBRA AND THE RM WIL­LIAMS AND MAKE A BEE­LINE FOR THE CALGARY STAM­PEDE: THE GREAT­EST SHOW ON EARTH

Life & Style Weekend - - ESCAPE - WORDS: SHIRLEY SIN­CLAIR

Aherd of 30 cat­tle. Three mus­ter­ers on horse­back. A 20’ x 24’ (6m x 7.3m) pen at the back of the arena. The start sig­nal is given and as the rid­ers hit their stride, the an­nouncer calls out the re­quired num­ber. The rid­ers’ mis­sion is to find the three an­i­mals with that num­ber on their back, separate them from the herd and round them up and into the pen be­fore clos­ing the gate. And they’re on the clock: 60 sec­onds to separate and pen them. The fastest team will win the prize and bragging rights. Sounds easy to the ca­sual ob­server. The re­al­ity can be very dif­fer­ent. Find­ing the three, which may be spread through­out the herd, is dif­fi­cult enough. Coax­ing them to leave the “safety in num­bers” is the next hur­dle. One rider keep­ing watch over one or two at the back of the arena, while the other two rid­ers try to round up the third, also holds no guar­an­tee those an­i­mals won’t bolt back to­wards their mates. Teamwork is the key as the three horses and rid­ers pit their skills and train­ing against the cat­tle’s herd men­tal­ity. The Team Cat­tle Pen­ning Cham­pi­onships at Canada’s an­nual Calgary Stam­pede is a game of wits – one that “city slick­ers” will find fas­ci­nat­ing among myr­iad events over

the an­nual fes­ti­val pro­gram. CS, as it is af­fec­tion­ately known, be­gan in 1968 and cel­e­brated its half-cen­tury last year. Billed as “the great­est out­door show on Earth”, it won’t just bring out the cow­boy in you, it will ya­hoo the socks off ya. The 10-day cel­e­bra­tion, held ev­ery July in south­ern Al­berta’s big­gest city, at­tracts more than a mil­lion vis­i­tors a year. To try to de­scribe it in Aussie terms, the CS is like the Gympie Muster meets the Mt Isa Rodeo meets the Syd­ney Royal Easter Show meets the Nitro Cir­cus meets Syd­ney Olympics en­ter­tain­ment pro­gram meets TV’S Young Tal­ent Time and a Royal Gala Per­for­mance. But this is all-cana­dian, all the way. The CS dips its wide-brimmed hat to coun­try life, and serves up the south­ern Al­berta hos­pi­tal­ity through friendly Calgary folk as vol­un­teers. Wran­gle a cou­ple of tick­ets and you’ll have free ac­cess to bootscoot around var­i­ous venues in the mas­sive Stam­pede Park with west­ern and agri­cul­ture com­pe­ti­tions and dis­plays aplenty, in­clud­ing the vin­tage tractor pull, the world stock dog cham­pi­onship and Dairy Clas­sic Cham­pi­onship Show. The fris­bee-catch­ing skills and an­tics of ca­nine com­peti­tors in the Dog Bowl are also free to watch once in­side the park, but you’ll need to mo­sey on down well be­fore the hugely pop­u­lar shows start to get a seat. Re­ally, you can horse around all day here – tak­ing selfies with mem­bers of the Calgary Stam­pede Show­band while they per­form at the foot of the Sad­dle­dome steps, mar­vel­ling at death-de­fy­ing mo­tor­cy­cle stunt rid­ers, tak­ing a heart-in-mouth Sling­shot ride at “sideshow al­ley”, join­ing the back end of a line danc­ing dis­play and wan­der­ing around colour­ful tipis in First Na­tions Ex­hi­bi­tion. And you can’t miss the rip-snortin’ mu­sic pro­gram. Tim Mcgraw, the most played coun­try artist in his­tory, has been in­vited to close the 2019 Calgary Stam­pede on Sun­day, July 14, at the Sco­tia­bank Sad­dle­dome as part of the tick­eted Vir­gin Mo­bile Stam­pede Con­cert Se­ries. The 2019 con­cert se­ries also has an­nounced Zac Brown Band and Su­gar­land, with more artists in the line-up to be an­nounced soon. There’s free en­try to the Coca-cola stage where vis­i­tors will find rock, al­ter­na­tive and pop mu­sic acts, as well as Nashville North – the home of live coun­try mu­sic, and The Big Four Road­house – where you can eat, drink,

be merry, dance and even play games like foos­ball in a chilled-out at­mos­phere. But the two big guns of the CS pro­gram are the tick­eted rodeo and evening show. The Stam­pede Rodeo boasts that it is the world’s rich­est tour­na­ment-style rodeo. Some of the planet’s best com­peti­tors, horses, bulls and steers take part in the pro­gram from 1.30pm daily. Nine rodeo events over 10 days carry $2 mil­lion in prize money. And ev­ery stride, ev­ery buck, ev­ery rope throw and tie, ev­ery vic­tory builds to­wards Show­down Sun­day: the world's largest out­door rodeo. The Calgary Stam­pede Evening Show is a must-see dou­ble­header. First up is the GMC Ran­ge­land Derby: a no-holds-barred, heart­stop­ping pound­ing of hooves with reins fly­ing in strong, skilled hands as the Grand­stand Arena hosts chuck­wagon rac­ing. A to­tal of 36 chuck­wagon driv­ers, sup­ported by their out­rid­ers and 216 horses, have their eyes on the prize: $1.45 mil­lion in to­tal. Nine nightly heats will have you bet­ting among your­selves which of the four crazy chuck­wagon teams will cross the fin­ish line first. The ever-pop­u­lar Bell Grand­stand Show is a breath­tak­ingly elab­o­rate pro­gram of song and dance fea­tur­ing guest artists and the Young Cana­di­ans theatre troupe, stunt artists, ac­ro­bats (last year’s pro­gram saw the real Ed­die the Ea­gle Olympic ski jumper “fly” above the grand­stand, to com­mem­o­rate his part in the Calgary 1988 Win­ter Games) and a spec­tac­u­lar fire­works fi­nale. So whether you’ve lived on the land all your life, or just want to dust off the Akubra and give the Wrangler jeans and RM Wil­liams checked shirt an air­ing from the wardrobe, sad­dle up or get on the chuck­wagon head­ing north to Calgary.

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