I watched the big parade thru downtown in comfort - had an invite to an environmental consultancy for a networking brunch
. Stood on their 11th floor terrace and watched the downtown Stampede parade from there (so no sweaty jostling with the crowds), swopping business cards and sipping applejuice in a vain attempt to detox from the night before. The consultancy President has offered to take me up in his plane to see the local topography and check-out my bearings, which will be cool. After a few hours on their terrace, I headed into town for an afternoon of drinking and dancing as Stampede officially kicked off. Left one particularly sweltering beer-garden at 4pm to go home and sober up before I went to a client function at the Calgary Petroleum Club...think "Oil Baron's Ball" as shown on Dallas. Invite said "Best Western" rather than black-tie so yes..I had on my cowgirl boots, hat, beaded choker, little denim skirt and a pink diamante belt with a big silver buckle. "Too much?" I wondered as I left home, "Naaaa" I told myself confidently. So I walk in and it's like a gentlemen's club with lots of oak panelling and heavy drapes (so I think "Ooops" on the dress code), but as I look around I see loads of Western fixtures e.g. bales of hay and pieces of wood, plus in the lobby was a 4 foot high model of a boot especially for Stampede...made out of lard!!!! Talk about contrasts. After a good feed on Alberta beef, I left there after a couple of hours (I was the youngest person there by over a decade, and I was getting sick of being asked whose wife I was). So I went back to Cowboys where the night got pretty messy - the next day I found a thick, 10 foot piece of rope inside my bag...don't ask, I have no idea where I got it
! So I made it through the week unscathed but then I had to negotiate 'the last weekend of Stampede' where anything goes.....
On Saturday night I went to a real cowboy club outside town called Ranchman's. It's the kind of place a chick cannot dance or stand on her own...the constant offers got to be a bit of a drag...so I had a go on the mechanical bull. Oh yes...it was only a matter of time eh? As I was wearing a skirt, a woman who overheard me saying I wanted a go, lent me her trousers (I didn't know her, she was just looking after me and my dignity!) and after a few shots of Jack, I strode onto the mat. There were about 100 people stood around the pen watching, and when the guy announces "Lisa from London" I can hear people shouting "Oh yeah, a tourist, gotta watch this", and another 50 or so ran over. So I'm thinking "great - no pressure at all, just representing my entire bleedin city/country". So I just wrapped my hand around the rope and squeezed my knees as tight as I could round the the sides, and hung on..and on...and on. Eventually I was too tired, so I let go and slid gracefully to the floor (years of practice means I know how to fall well). Anyway - I only made it into the bleedin Final on my first go...yeeeeeeeehhhaaaaaaaaaarrrr!!!! But I didn't stay long enough for the Final, was too knackered and hacked off with all the cowboys hassling for a dance/buy me a drink
. They just don't let up...so I slid out the door with my t-shirt and balloon and headed back into town to hit some clubs. The tragic part is, someone used my digital camera to take a movie of me riding the bull (and even though I say so myself, I looked pretty darn good) and a some point that night I lost the sodding thing. Probably showing people in the clubs I went to later. So no movie...but the Ranchman's bull is apparently a permanent fixture...so am planning to go back in a couple of weeks and will take another movie to send y'all (bought a new camera on Sunday morning for the rodeo Finals). I can tell I'm gonna get really good at this bull riding malarkey...hahaha. Just one other downside - inside of my thighs are black with bruises where I hung on so tight. Ho hum...
Stampede finished on Sunday. I only went to the show-ground once...(I know..but there's so many other events around town during Stampede) but I met someone with all-access passes to the Final...hehehe. The showground is just across town (can see if from my office window) and has music stages (this year I know they had Sum 41 and Nelly Fertado, something different every night), a massive funfair, agricultural areas (think County Fair i.e. lots of photo opportunities with livestock), and the racetrack/rodeo enclosure. As well as the standard calf wrestling stuff they have some really mad events e.g. catch a wild cow and milk her without getting you face kicked in, and kids compete by riding big wild sheep
. I watched the bull riding finals which was pretty scary when you get close and see how big & fast it all is. The last event was the finals of the Chuck Wagon races. Four teams at a time with the old western style wagons drawn by 4 horses each, plus a few outriders per team (guys on horseback that follow the wagons). They race through the rodeo enclosure around a barrel obstacle course, then dash round the race track. So where I stood at the start/finish line of the race track, we got about 30 horses plus their wagons thundering past...awesome! Got loads of movies of the Chucks and pictures of the stadium. After that finished we went 'back-stage' to the Chuck barns...imagine a few hundred horses plus a trailer park full of rodeo families i.e. carnival/gypsy types. All started getting a bit wild...not the place for unaccompanied chicks...I was fine cos I was with a big group of lads, but then we went back to the showground and watched the Finale. Lots of lights, fireworks and stage show by Cirque Du Soleil (they're previewing their new show in Calgary). After that it was a shuffling wander into town to hit the clubs. The biggest club in town (Cowboys - usually holds about 1000, but they put up a marquee for another 4000 for Stampede)..well they had 'Shaggy' playing which was a huge disappointment for me! Stayed there a little while, then it was on to the Whiskey and ended up at the Roadhouse. Needless to say..didn't make it into the office on Monday - but then apparently nor did most of Calgary!
This weekend is already looking busy...Saturday afternoon am going to the Football (Canadian footie is like NFL and Rugby Union combined) to watch the Calgary Stampeder's play Saskatchewan Roughies at our local stadium (can see it from my balcony). And at some point I'm going to some free music festivals. There's a 'world-music' festival kicking off from today until Sunday on Prince's Island (massive island in the middle of the Bow River and Eau Clair park, connected to the City by footbridges). They have all kinds of bands e.g. Elvis Costello, Western/Country, Hispanic/Salsa etc plus all the associated food stalls. Looking forward to more sunshine...average day temp right now is 28'C...and it doesn't drop below 14'C at night. Weather can be a bit insane though. On Monday while Cable-Guy fixed up my TV (got 40 channels - yikes) it dropped from a sunny 32'C to black skies, sheet & fork lightening, the loudest booming/cracking thunder I've ever heard, torrential rain and big chunks of hail, within about 10 minutes flat. Big storm rolled across town (which I watched from the balcony) and then 10 minutes later it was back to brilliant sunshine. Never seen weather change like that...Bizarre...
Stampede photos to be added next also includes views from my office window (I look south-west, past the shiny towers to the Rockies) and also the view from my new appartment (looking at the Bow River and up to the hills where you can see the Olympic Village ski-jump).
So I get here on about 14 June...which gave me a few weeks to get my bearings before Stampede kicked off. Everyone told me it was crazy, but I didn't quite understand what they meant until I lived thru it. For example, image the financial and law districts in the City of London. Imagine for one week of the year - everyone turns up to work in Cowboy hats, boots and blue jeans with plaid shirts. That's how you have meetings with clients too...although most normal business' is put on hold for a week. The Stampede style of business, is networking briunches i.e. you turn up at 0800 and have a breakfast in an office/hotel garden or carpark, which includes pancakes, syrup, eggs, sausage and wait for it....beer & cocktails. And they keep moving from one place to another (brekkie, brunch, lunch, tea, dinner) networking as they go. If you turn up to work in normal gear (suits etc) you get sent home. Bizarre eh?