I’m no expert but after spending several days in this unique city, I am impressed. I come to this from an Ameri-centric perspective. I always considered it a thriving city close to Banff and Lake Louise which often steal the spotlight. But Calgary has reason to be proud. And here’s why.
The Calgary Stampede is a world-class event that attracts visitors from the West and elsewhere who enjoy and participate in rodeos. That is their initial attraction – bull riding, barrel racing and chuck wagon races.
But unknown to most tourists from outside Canada, there is a huge carnival attached to the event and each night the rodeo arena is transformed into a Las Vegas-style entertainment venue with video screens, mega-watt suspended speakers, a cable supported extra-special drum corps and even fireworks to enliven the entertainment event. The sun goes down and the lights come up all in a moment of transformation right in front of your eyes. 50 spirited dancers take the stage accompanied by a full seated tuxedo-wearing orchestra. They’ve been doing this for 50 years! It’s something to see.
The city of Calgary is uniquely focused on this once-a-year 10-day event. Along with a full paid staff, 2300 volunteers man the ticket booths and roam the carnival grounds with sweepers and dustpans to keep the grounds beautifully clean. In fact, the whole city appears to be beautifully clean even while displays promoting the Stampede abound throughout the city.
Employers give permission to their employees to volunteer to work for the event without losing their salary. Each of them becomes an advocate to promote the event in their neighborhood and workplace. The talk and walk is all about the Stampede as restaurants and lodging facilities gain big premiums to house and feed the influx of tourists that arrive and visit throughout the 10-day period.
The city itself is on the upswing – working to transition its cowboy image into a technology haven through educational opportunities and entrepreneurs setting up shop. Housing is new and expanding to the outskirts of the city core. And downtown is busy with tall office buildings and a modern, efficient train and bus transportation system that handles most of the local traffic.
Fresh, bright and clean is the Calgary of 2018. Great place to visit rivaling the overstated tourism attraction of Vancouver and the close-by Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. If you’re thinking of traveling to Western Canada, it’s worth putting Calgary on your itinerary especially if you can get here during the Stampede. It’s fun, entertaining and special.