How to do the Calgary Stampede in style
For more than 100 years, the Calgary Stampede, a.k.a the “Greatest outdoor show on earth,” has taken over the city for 10 days of country-music backed partying each July. It’s a time of year when Calgarians and visitors alike get decked out in belt buckles, denim, cowboy boots and Stetsons before heading out for pancake breakfasts, afternoons sipping bacon ceasars on the patio and line-dancing nights with beers in-hand. Here’s how to make the most of the Stampede in top style:
WHERE TO STAY NEAR THE STAMPEDED GROUNDS
Hotel Arts: There’s no doubt that Hotel Arts is one of the coolest and closest hotel to fair grounds – it’s located just a five-minute walk from the Stampede gates in the Victoria Park neighbourhood. With walls that act as a canvas for local artists, award-winning cocktails flowing at its Raw Bar and a posh poolside patio, it’s easy to see why so many tastemakers – including Rihanna and Kiss (the band was rumoured to be staying there during my visit) – choose the downtown boutique hotel as their Calgary mainstay. Always on trend, the hotel will be hosting its own inaugural gluten, sugar and dairy-free Stampede breakfast on July 9: Think chicken apple sausages, veggie frittatas and blueberry buckwheat pancakes.
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Kensington Riverside Inn: Also located downtown – yet a bit farther away from all the “yahooing” – is the 16-room Kensington Riverside Inn. Borrow one of the property’s complementary Brooklyn Cruiser Bikes and ride the pathways along the Bow River, or take a little jaunt downtown to check out all the corporate Stampede party action along Stephen Avenue Walk.
Wondering what to wear to Stampede? Our expert dishes on the dos and don’ts of westernwear, on the next page…
WHAT TO WEAR TO THE STAMPEDE
When it comes to westernwear, there are lots of ways you can go wrong or OTT (crop tops paired with short-shorts and novelty cowboy hats are no-nos). I caught up with Phaedra Godchild, a Calgary stylist at The CORE, the city’s downtown shopping hub that houses 160 stores including Holt Renfrew, for a full rundown of the dos and don’ts of stylish rodeo dressing – as well as my very own personal Stampede style consultation:
Calgary stylist Phaedra Godchild’s dos and don’ts of Stampede dressing:
Do: “My number one tip is to dress for your style. Think about incorporating your personal style and pieces into your rodeo wardrobe.”
Don’t: “Wear head-to-toe cowboy. It usually ends up looking too much like a costume.”
Do: “Balance your outfit. If you’re going to wear a long-sleeved top, you can pair that with a skirt or shorts, but don’t go short all over. Crop tops and short shorts are not appropriate together.”
Do: “Incorporate the season’s trends. You’ll always look stylish wearing the most current colours.” Try pink or classics like black and white.
GALLERY: The best summer dresses to wear to the Stampede
What I wore to the Stampede: I arrived in Calgary with a pair of camel-coloured cowboy boots in my suitcase (a hasty purchase I made a decade ago that finally came in handy). Godchild took one look at the boots and styled me in a long-sleeved snakeskin-print mini-dress and a thin brown belt to cinch in my waist. She added a brushed-gold Rebecca Minkoff cross-body purse that was the best choice for a day of all-out Stampeding. And for a final western touch, she added a taupe-coloured Smithbilt cowboy hat. It was the perfect balance between western and contemporary styles, which made it easy to go from the morning parade to the evening grandstand show.
If in doubt about the western-insipired options in your closet, Calgary-based designer Paul Hardy has curated his own westernwear store for Stampede. Or, head to one of the eight iconic Lammle’s Western Wear & Tack locations in Calgary to get outfitted. Either way, just keep Godchild’s advice in mind and don’t overdo it.
Find our where to eat beyond the Stampede grounds and what to do while on the midway, on the next page…
WHERE TO EAT IN CALGARY BEYOND THE STAMPEDE GROUNDS
Breakfast at the Yellow Door Bistro: If the city’s plethora of free parking lot pancake breakfasts aren’t gourmet enough for you, head to the appropriately named Yellow Door Bistro (just look for the big yellow doors) at the Hotel Arts. The decadent breakfast spread created by chef Duncan Ly features lemon ricotta pancakes that are just how you’d image clouds taste like.
Lunch at Farm Restaurant: Calgary culinary entrepreneur Janice Beaton has long been known for her divine cheese shop, Janice Beaton Fine Cheese, and for Farm, her quaint and casual 17th Avenue restaurant that serves savoury sandwiches and crisp salads made with local produce and products. Another must try: The signature “Janice’s bubbling, mildy spicy mac n’ cheese.”
Dinner at Charcut Roast House: Calgary chefs John Jackson and Connie DeSousa (also a Top Chef Canada alum) specialize in local and house-cured meats. From spit-roasted prime rib to duck-fat fried poutine and even barbequed East Coast oysters, they roast, smoke and charbroil the best of Alberta and beyond.
WHAT TO DO ON THE STAMPEDE GROUNDS
The rodeo: There is much more than a carnival midway to this rodeo party. Start by going to the actual rodeo – where the best cowboys around the world buck, race, and hurtle across the stadium each day. For the best view of the bucking horses, book a premium seat (air-conditioned, indoor, swivel chairs, need I say more) at The Lazy S on the fourth level of the Stampede Grandstand. The menu includes bacon ceasars and GRH (grown right here) menu items like the 5lb burger only available during the Stampede.
The midway: Work your way through the maze of food stands on the midway, where anything goes (literally) into the deep fryer. The hot bags of sugar- and cinnamon-coated “Those Little Donuts” are a must-try local favourite. But the biggest surprise hit for me? Pickle juice test tube shots. Trust me, they are a must! Also worth checking out are the wild pony races where teams of three 8-to-12-year-olds try to go for a ride, and the SuperDogs Theatre, where this year, the theme is disco and the dogs will show off their John Travolta moves.
Where to party during the Stampede, on the next page…
WHERE TO PARTY AT THE STAMPEDE
Nashville North: Cowboy boots haven’t taken their toll yet? Finish off your night at the Stampede’s infamous Nashville North venue for bottomless beer, live country music and lots of two-stepping. This year’s headliners include the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, George Fox and The Road Hammers. Editor tip: Hold on to your Smithbilt, because a two-step miss step could land it in a carpet of beer and mud. I know, it happened to me (my poor taupe topper!).
Cowboys: With performances from everyone from 50 Cent to The Sheepdogs, the party at Cowboy Dance Hall can’t be missed — this year, it’s where
Iggy Azalea and Snoop Dogg are set to close out the Stampede. The enormous tent houses countless bars, which serve up frothy beers and keep cowboy-hat wearing partygoers satisfied. Don’t be surprised if you leave with 10 new friends, mud-splattered cowboy boots, and more Canadian pride. My patriotic Stampede moment: When the crowd linked arms and spontaneously belted out the national anthem. What’s more Canadian than that? Yeehaw!