It first dawned on me that people from outside our country had some wildly out-of-date notions about Canada on my first ever trip to Europe. It happened when one of my Dutch cousins began asking questions about what life in Canada was like.
“And the cowboys,” she said. “You have lots of cowboys, right?”
I hesitated. I was acutely aware that I was about to burst her fantasy bubble.
“Uh, some,” I said. “You mostly see them at the rodeos.” I think an awkward attempt to explain what happens at rodeos followed ― awkward because I had never actually been to a rodeo. I quickly changed the subject.
Then again, if you are a couple of Italian tourists visiting Calgary during Stampede Week ― like the ones I met standing beside me at the parade ― it’s easy to go home and think Canada is all about the cowboys.
I suppose there are worse stereotypes out there.
The Calgary Stampede (also known as The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth) finished up just a week ago. I went this year for my first time ever ― and had a blast.
First held in 1912, the Stampede became an annual event in 1923. These days, the rodeo attracts competitors from all over North and South America.
The Treaty 7 First Nations have been an integral part of the Stampede since its beginnings.
In addition to the parade (which starts the Stampede off with a bang), the rodeo, and the chuckwagon races, there are lots of animals to see.
There’s also a midway, and lots and lots of live music. And pancakes.
And, every year, the Indian Village.
If you’re feeling underdressed, don’t worry. There are plenty of places where you can get your proper Stampede attire. For a price.
The Calgary Stampede celebrates Alberta’s history, but also its present. Ranching is big business in Alberta ― half of the country’s beef is raised here.
I’ve lost touch with those Dutch cousins of mine, so I don’t know if they ever made it to Canada. But if they did, I sure hope they got to see a cowboy or three.