In defence of Cowboy Calgary

I hate the Calgary Stampede.

Loathe it.

I avoid it at all costs.

But certainly not because of its representation of cowboy culture.

It’s the crowds.

Fighting against the masses to try a deep-fried Oreo cookie (which, as it turns out, is revolting).

Watching mothers force their children to stay up late so they can catch a glimpse of fat Mike Reno.

Standing in line to pee.

Kids whining for another ride on the ferris wheel.

Skanks and douchebags falling on their faces in the Bud Light tent because they’re too stupid to know how to handle their liquor.

Maybe that makes me anti-social. I don’t care.

But I have a cowboy hat. I keep one on the off-chance I get invited to a party. Or if there’s one or two bands for which I might brave the crowds and visit the Coca-Cola Stage.

I enjoy a good off-site Stampede party (and I get to go to one this year, thanks to Chelsea!).

I enjoy the notion we have a festival that celebrates Calgary’s history and culture.

Others cringe.

They wail ‘that’s not what we’re all about here’ and whine ‘everyone thinks we’re redneck.’

Oh, get over it.

Everyone doesn’t think we’re redneck.

Everyone doesn’t think we’re all cowboys or cowgirls and horses trot down Stephen Avenue regularly dropping their piles of doodoo.

It’s a celebration of our heritage.

My hometown revels in its history. Antigonish, N.S., was founded more than 200 years ago. Our roots run deep with the colours of Scottish and Irish tartans.

Our history is no less violent and no less sordid than the cowboy days of the Wild West.

And yet, our street signs are in English and Gaelic (not French, ha!).

And yet, every year, the bagpipes swirl and kilts are flipped to see if yer wearin anythan undder dar cuz a real Scot dont, ya know?

That doesn’t mean everyone wears a kilt 365 days a year.

That doesn’t mean everyone knows the Highland Dance (I would but we couldn’t afford the lessons and costumes so I got stuck in ballet).

That doesn’t mean we’re drunk and rowdy and smashing steins all the time … ah, wait … I may be wrong on that count.

The cry and hue of those bucking against the ‘stereotypes’ need to be drowned out by those of us who are proud of our heritage, those of us who aren’t afraid of the skeletons in our closet.

Those bucking against the stereotypes need to be reminded this is where we came from. This is who we are. And it doesn’t matter if we’re a bustling, busy metropolis with a beautiful skyline, amazing sunsets, a thriving arts district and a diverse population.

No, wait. Yes, it does matter.

But these are our roots.

It’s like that old saying: if you forget where you came from, you won’t know where you’re going.



  1. As a Calgary citizen for the last 16 years, I have to say that I do avoid the Stampede activities and try to stay out of the tourists way when they come to town. I don’t loathe the Stampede though. Like yourself I only go down to the grounds if I have an invite to a party or their is a bit of entertainment that I want to catch. I will also do the obligatory rounds with family that visit during stampede that want to take in the events. I’m not a big fan of the crowds, the lines, the congestion or the drunks, but I have to admit, I knew what I was getting into when I first moved to Calgary. So I shrug my shoulders and put up with it. When I first moved to Calgary I used to love the Stampede and went down and partied with the rest of the tourists! I actually loved it because of the crowds and the stupid things you get to see when silly people drink. Now I look at it like a pill you have to take every once in a while. Kinda like cod liver oil. I make an effort to go down once every 5 years or so and pretend to be one of the tourists. I blend in well, so it becomes easier to let loose once in a while and become an idiot once or twice during these 10 long days. I do love the fact that the Western Heritage is celebrated just as you had pointed out as well. Plus it gives me a chance to wear the shit kickers and jeans to work for a few days too. I’m definitely proud to be a Calgarian and even though I avoid the festivities that deluge our city once a year, I’m still happy to promote the event to those that have never been to it. :o)

    1. Thanks, Jaicin! Isn’t it funny how we’re allowed to wear jeans for six business days and they’re always the hottest days of the summer?

  2. Love this post Angela

    Calgary knows how to throw a party, the citizens know how to behave in large groups. {Read between the lines here}. Calgarian’s have been raised to be good hosts, as we have been “Hosting the World” for 10 days in July for the past 99 years. Like it or not it is what separates Calgary from many other Cities.

    I personally love the uniqueness that brings all those visitors every July!

    I just wish people would quit trying to change things that work. I do not see a need for all cities to be carbon copies. Everyone should try this – Smile at 10 people and see how many people smile back at you – and how many blank stares you get. Then try the same thing in other places.

    The smiles feel good!

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