It's a sport of crushed ribs and severed ears, broken bones and bruised egos. But at the Calgary Stampede, one of the world's major rodeos, the stakes are too high to stay away.
As if it wasn't enough to be Canada's largest annual event, the Calgary Exhibition & Stampede July 7-16, smashed attendance records on the grounds and through the gates of various rodeo events. One bareback rider even set a world record.
This year's rodeo was dominated by local competitors, all fighting for their piece of the $1 million in prizes. Albertans won four of the six major events and took six of the 13 cash purses. Davey Shields Jr. of Bashaw, Alberta, took home $50,000 in the bareback for the second time in his career with a world record-breaking score of 95.0.
Albertans Rod Hay of Wildwood, Chris Hansen of Bindloss and Alwin Bouchard of Scandia all took home $50,000 purses for saddle bronc, bull riding and tie-down roping respectively. The steer wrestling and ladies barrel racing winners came from the United States.
In all ten days of competition there were no serious injuries to humans. One horse did have a heart attack after running a chuckwagon race and sadly passed away.
Calgary's tourists have sometimes remarked that the Stampede is just like the Canadian National Exhibition or the Pacific National Exhibition, only with cowboy hats. But for western sport enthusiasts, there's a competition for everything.
Alongside the events above are the minor events including the wild horse race, widely thought to be the most dangerous event in rodeo, novice bareback and saddle bronc, junior steer riding and even wild cow milking.
One of the most popular annual events is the Rangeland Derby chuckwagon races. If you've never seen one, the only way to describe it is barely-contained chaos.
There's a competition for just about every aspect of agriculture imaginable. The heavy horse pull, livestock shows, livestock auctioneer championship, sheep shearing, blacksmithing and many more events showcase Alberta's western agricultural heritage.
However, the record 1,242,928 people who passed through the gates this year did not all come to see the aggie attractions.
The athletic canines of the Eukanuba Superdogs show had long line-ups over half an hour in advance of their show this year. The nausea-inducing midway had rides for children and rides you'd never let children on. The Coca-Cola Stage concert series brought performers such as K-OS--about as far from country as you can get-- Jeff Healey, David Usher and, not forgetting country, Terri Clark.
The ever-popular family oriented Grandstand Show had nearly 500 performers celebrating Alberta's centennial.
And, oh yes, there's no substitute for seeing the nightly fireworks from the Stampede grounds.
So maybe the Calgary Stampede has its similarities to the CNE or PNE, but everything's bigger in Alberta.