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10 Surprising Calgary Stampede Facts You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner

You know the Calgary Stampede as a rip-roaring rodeo, but there’s more to it than steer wrestling and a flashy parade. Check out these little known facts about this iconic Canadian event, which deserves its moniker of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

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Coca Cola Stage at Calgary StampedePhoto: Tye Carson/Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede is one of Canada’s largest music festivals

Each year during the 10-day festival, more 60 musical acts perform on the grounds of the Calgary Stampede. Add to that the dozens upon dozens of acts that hit Calgary’s National Music Centre and other venues throughout Cowtown, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a music fest. Be sure to check out the Coca-Cola Stage—free with admission to Stampede Park—where acts such as the Barenaked Ladies, Nelly Furtado and Marianas Trench have performed. (Sounds like the perfect playlist for a cross-Canada road trip!)

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Eating corn dogs at Calgary StampedePhoto: Tye Carson/Calgary Stampede

Enormous amounts of carnie grub are consumed

From the legendary mini donuts to all things fried-on-a-stick, the Calgary Stampede goes all-out with carnie fare, and the crowds eat it up—literally. In fact, if you laid down all 96,000 of the corn dogs consumed annually end-to-end, that line would stretch for 19 kilometres. In terms of sweets, Stampede-goers scarf back two million mini doughnuts and 50,000 candy apples each year—an estimated 15,000 kilograms of sugar. That’s no bull!

Here are 10 more must-try Canadian dishes—and the best places to find them across the country.

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Ferris wheel at the Calgary StampedePhoto: ShutterStock

Millions of dollars are raised for charity

The Calgary Stampede is one of the highest-grossing festivals in all of Canada, but organizers don’t take the money and run. The not-for-profit group that puts on the annual show contributes millions to community charities in addition to the Calgary Stampede Foundation, a registered charity in itself. This foundation invests approximately $3-million annually in youth programs such as The Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, the Calgary Stampede Showband and the Stampede School. Check out 13 more reasons it’s great living in Canada.

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Free flapjacks at Calgary StampedePhoto: Tye Carson/Calgary Stampede

The pancakes are free

During Stampede, more than 200,000 flapjacks (pancakes) are flipped at community breakfasts across the city. Oh, and did we mention these pancakes are free, and served up with bacon or sausage? Yes, ma’am! Saddling up for a Stampede breakfast has been a tradition ever since 1923. Back then, Jack Morton (also known as “Wildhorse Jack”), moseyed downtown with his chuckwagon and cookstove, and served up hotcakes for a hungry crowd. Not sure exactly where in town you’ll find one of these free feasts? No problem! Simply download the Flapjack Finder app and it’ll point you to the nearest location.

Here are more great Canadian attractions you’ve never heard of.

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Indian Village at Calgary StampedePhoto: Bill Marsh/Calgary Stampede

First Nations elders are A-OK with the term “Indian Village”

Since the very first Calgary Stampede back in 1912, Indian Village has been an area at Stampede Park where the Treaty 7 Nations share their traditions and culture. Although its name might raise a eyebrow or two these days, First Nations elders and tipi owners have voted to keep it, as it represents the strong relationship between Indigenous peoples and Stampede organizers from day one. Back in 1912, Canadian laws prohibited First Nations peoples from practicing their culture beyond the boundaries of a reserve. Indian Village became one of the few exceptions to the rule—and remains (along with the rodeo and parade) one of only three original attractions at the Calgary Stampede that continue to this day.

After the Stampede, check out these awesome day trips from Calgary on one tank of gas.

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Prince William and Kate at Calgary StampedePhoto: Chris Bolin/Calgary Stampede

The Stampede is a royal affair

The first Stampede Queen was crowned in 1946, and the tradition continues today, with Stampede royalty extending to the naming of two Stampede Princesses and an Indian Princess. Queen Elizabeth II herself has joined the crowned heads of Stampede four times since 1951, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended during their 2011 inaugural Canadian tour. Donning white hats (Calgary’s version of keys to the city), the royal couple took in the Stampede Parade and a private rodeo performance.

Don’t miss the Queen’s Canadian milestones.

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Stampede Park during Calgary StampedePhoto: ShutterStock

Stampede Park becomes Alberta’s third largest city

Over the 10 days of Stampede 2017, more than 1.2-million guests galloped through the gates of Stampede Park. In fact, the average daily attendance at Stampede is 121,497, making it (temporarily) Alberta’s third largest city, just edging out Red Deer with its population of 100,418.

Planning your dream vacation out west? Here’s a roundup of the best things to do in Alberta.

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Calgary Stampede rodeo winnersPhoto: Mike Ridewood/Calgary Stampede

Rodeo contestants compete for big bucks

The Stampede boasts the largest purse in outdoor rodeo with more than $2-million paid out in prizes. That kind of cash lures cowboys and cowgirls from across North America to compete in front of 30,000 fans each afternoon in events ranging from bareback to bull riding to barrel racing. The goal is to advance to Showdown Sunday, when a grand total of $1,018,800 is doled out in what’s known as rodeo’s richest afternoon.

Heading on to the Rockies after Stampede? This itinerary of the best things to do in Banff will come in handy.

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Treatment of animals at Calgary StampedePhoto: Mike Ridewood/Calgary Stampede

Animals at the Calgary Stampede are well looked after

More than 7,500 animals take part in the Calgary Stampede’s rodeo, exhibitions and educational programs. (Head to the Ag Barns to get up close and personal with these cute critters.) Every last one is seen daily by the Stampede’s on-site vets, which number as many as 10. Bucking horses receive top-notch medical care, and when they’re not performing (top bucking horses tend to perform their eight-second ride only a dozen times a year), they’re living in a natural herd environment at the Stampede Ranch.

Don’t miss this gorgeous gallery of the wild horses of Alberta.

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Young Canadians at the Calgary Stampede grandstand showPhoto: Chris Bolin/Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede funds Canada’s unofficial performing arts school

The Young Canadians are a troop of 120 talented teens who hoof it each night in a spectacular performance at the Stampede’s TransAlta Grandstand Show. (Think Glee meets the Super Bowl Halftime Show.) They’re all members of the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts, which is subsidized by the Calgary Stampede Foundation. After passing through a series of rigorous auditions, the young people are trained in dance, voice and performance by the school’s professional faculty.

Itching to pack your bags? Here’s a full itinerary of amazing things to do in Calgary on your next vacation.