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Charlie Hart at the Calgary Stampede entrance. Right: Fireworks above the Calgary Stampede midway.

Charlie Hart at the Calgary Stampede entrance. Right: Fireworks above the Calgary Stampede midway.

After a whole year of anticipation, 2022 was finally the year I got to experience my first ever full Calgary Stampede and there were a lot of things I wasn't expecting.

The pandemic brought on two years of quieter celebrations, but the time finally came for me to experience the real deal and I was so excited. After all, the Calgary Stampede is really what the city is famous for.

But there were a lot of things I wasn't prepared for. From western wear to the massive lineups you'll face if you want to do pretty much anything, these are the six things I wish I'd known beforehand.

Western wear is everywhere!

In the lead-up to Stampede starting, I had the best intentions to pick up some cowboy boots and it just slipped my mind. But once Stampede arrives, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone not dressed in some kind of western wear. It's not even just at rodeo either. The city is a sea of cowboy hats and a lot of the time, I did feel a little bit out of place in my t-shirt and Converse.

The parade is actually so much fun

The annual Calgary Stampede Parade which passes through the streets of downtown Calgary to launch the 10-day event was back after two years so it was my first time getting to see it in action. I wasn't really sure what to expect from it at all but it was actually a lot of fun seeing the streets lined with people on camping chairs cheering all the parade floats was very wholesome. Also, everyone went wild for the Parade Marshal Kevin Costner.

The lineups are intense

Something I hadn't really anticipated is just how busy Stampede Park can get. According to Calgary Stampede, around 1.2 million people visited the grounds over the course of the 10-day event, and a lot of the time, you could feel it. There was a line for pretty much everything from the rides to the food trucks. I really wanted to try out the Super Wheel and the WestJet Skyride and the lines were so wild that I gave up.

Getting everything done is impossible

There's so much going on throughout the city during Stampede and while 10 days seems like plenty of time, it really flies by. If you're like me and working throughout, it's basically impossible to get to every single thing so make sure you prioritize the things you don't want to miss. For anything else, there's always next year!

People go hard!

When it comes to Stampede, people go hard in every way imaginable. There's live music and fireworks every night, tons of different parties, Stampede breakfasts, and barbecues. You'll definitely need to plan for at least a week to recover afterward because the tiredness is real.

It'll make your wallet cry

The Calgary Stampede midway.The Calgary Stampede midway.Charlie Hart | Narcity

Between entry to the grounds, drinks, food, rides and games, heading to the Stampede can really take its toll on your bank balance too. It's so much fun and I wouldn't change it for the world, but 10 days of fun means I'll probably be surviving on toast for the next few weeks.

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