In the 1973 film adaptation of the classic book Charlotte’s Web, a very wise Goose told Templeton the rat, “A fair is a veritable smorgasbord.” These words ring true today, as The Calgary Stampede and Edmonton Capital Ex are a smorgasbord of lights, sounds, smells, foods, and things to do.
Edmonton’s fair actually outdates Calgary’s, first being held in October 1879 by the Edmonton Agricultural Society on the original Fort Edmonton site. It was the first event of its kind ever held in what was then the North West Territories, and showcased locally produced livestock, grain, vegetables and handiwork. In 1904 it moved to its current location south of Rexall Place, and became one of the biggest fairs in Canada. In 1962 it was named Klondike Days, and people would dress up in period costumes for the parade. In 2006, the name was changed to Capital Ex, and last year 772,692 attended.
The Calgary Exhibition was first held in 1886, soon after the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway to the city. The Calgary Stampede, then a separate event, was inaugurated in 1912 by Guy Weadick, an American trick roper, and financed by the Big Four: Pat Burns, George Lane, A.J. MacLean, and A.E. Cross. Weadick wanted to put on a world-class rodeo event and Wild West show that would bring the best cowboys from across the continent. The first Stampede was the richest rodeo competition in North America with prize money totalling $20,000. It drew more than 100,000 spectators. In 1923, the Stampede was combined with the Calgary Exhibition and the event has taken place every year since. In 2006, close to 1.3 million people walked through the gates.
Of course, both events are a chance to party, and in Calgary, throw on a cowboy hat and boots. Entertainment is a huge part, attracting international music acts both to the grounds themselves and local clubs. This year the Calgary Stampede welcomes The Judds, James Taylor and Kid Rock to the Saddledome. The Coke Stage will features acts like Finger Eleven, Hedley, Natasha Beddingfield, State of Shock and many others. The ever popular Nashville North will offer country acts like Aaron Pritchett, Aaron Lines, Beverly Mahood, Emerson Drive and Sugarland. Capital Ex offers concerts nightly with Ed Fest from artists such as Collective Soul, Jully Black, The Sam Roberts Band and Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida. Catch the stars of the future at the Northern Star Talent Search in Edmonton or the Stampede Talent Search in the Archie Boyce Pavillion.
Both the Stampede and Capital Ex are an important part of the community, and giving back to it. Both events feature non-profit groups with lottery tickets available. You could win a house while supporting a great cause!
Of course, food is a huge part of the fair experience. This year keep an eye out for deep fried Oreos and Coca-cola batter. Or stick with traditions like BBQ Beef on a Bun, Corn Dogs, mini donuts, lemonade and root beer.
Don’t eat too much however if you plan on hitting the midway. No carnival is complete without rides and games, and the bright lights of the North American Midway Entertainment to lure you in. Try your best to win your sweetheart a $1 stuffed animal by spending $30 on a game… it’s the thought that counts! The “Double Shock”, “Fireball”, and of course the “Big Wheel” are waiting for you to buckle yourself in and scream if you want to go faster!
Don’t forget there is a ton to see on the grounds, from agricultural exhibits to marching bands, kids activities, and lots of shopping!
It isn’t July without a visit to either of these events that put their respective cities on the map, drawing tourists from around the world. Whether with a group of friends or your family, make plans to get out and, most importantly, have fun!
The Calgary Stampede
July 3rd – 13th, 2008
July 17th – 26th, 2008