The 2014 Calgary Stampede

Logo Credit: The Calgary Stampede Foundation 2014

Ah, the Calgary Stampede – When the population of Calgary increases by almost a million people for ten days of cowboy hats, deep-fried food and twangy country music.

Toted as ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,’ the Calgary Stampede does not disappoint. Held on the Stampede Grounds for 102 years, there are so many things to see and do. People come from literally all corners of the map to participate. Two of our favourite reasons to keep coming back: The Rodeo and The Midway (food and fast rides. What could go wrong?)

The temperature almost every day we went surpassed 30 degrees Celsius with only a few clouds to give us a well-wished break from the searing torment of the sun. If you don’t have something that closely-resembles sun stroke by the end of the day you’re not stampeding properly.

The Stampede always kicks off with a monstrous parade that blocks off most of downtown for hours. We got wise and went down to the parade route the night before to set (read, tape) chairs down in order to get front-row seats, went home for some excited ‘squee’s’ and a quick sleep before returning at 5:30 the next morning to defend our turf. The parade didn’t start for another four hours – Queue over-caffeination and screaming children.

When the parade did start, we had a really good time. Took lots of amazing pictures and got to wave at William Shatner, the Parade Marshall. You can check out the entire parade album on our Facebook Page.

Our main goal of visiting the grounds was to try all the wicked new food that had been posted on the Calgary Stampede website for months prior. We saddled up and headed down to the grounds. You can always tell when Stampede as the ratio of cowboy hats and boots goes up wherever you look – trains become more difficult to board and suddenly the view for shorter people like me turns into a sea of pressed felt and plaid.

There are so, so many things to do at the Calgary Stampede. I’ll be concentrating on food for this blog post. Sorry if you were looking for reviews on the rodeo and Super Dogs, but I’m sure there are lots of other blogs out there for you to imbibe.

Let’s get to it!

Red Velvet Mini Donughts

Photo Credit: D. Koch 2014

I was really excited to try these little wonders. Everyone who we had talked to prior exclaimed how rich and dense they were. I’m a fan of true Waldorf red velvet cake which, due to food rationing during World War II, was coloured with boiled beet juices and was extremely moist and sticky.

These were neither moist nor sticky. We were handed a stick of doughnuts that looked suspiciously like regular mini-doughnuts and were assured ‘the red was inside’. Nope. No red. More like a light-tinted rose on the insides of them. The flavour: Less than that of a regular mini-doughnut with the only saving grace being the cream-cheese frosting they had dunked the entire stack into before we received them.

We still ate all of them. Why waste food?

Ranking: 1 out of 5 Cowboy Hats


Takeaways: Disappointing reality after reviews, no colour

Deep-Fried Cheezies

Photo Credit: D. Koch 2014

What could go wrong? Oh, right – Everything. These looked and smelled delicious upon receiving them. Battered lightly with some pieces of that mystery green vegetable you find in instant soup broth. Things were going great until we took the first bite.

Did they mistake Cheezies for Styrofoam peanuts? These were horrible! I tried eating the breading from around the now rock-hard remains but the ‘cheeze’ in the Cheezie had melted, gone nuclear and created some sort of biome inside of the battered-atmosphere. It was like lighting an aerosol can of cheese on fire and devouring what’s left (don’t try this at home). At least the fried bits of dough on the bottom were tasty.

Ranking: 1 out of 5 Cowboy Hats


Takeaways: Alien environment contained by breading, styrofoam-like squeaking on my teeth

Deep-Fried Cookie Dough

Photo Credit: D. Koch 2014

I was so happy to find the booth selling deep-fried cookie dough! Delicious little balls of sweet goodness dusted with confectioner’s sugar… until you bit into it and realized there was a molten mass that resembled a microwaved tube of Keebler Elves. The dough collapsed, my mouth, face and shirt were flooded with goo of all shades of brown and my only reaction was to cough powdered sugar all over everyone within a ten-foot radius. The dough was sweet and resembled a chocolate-chip cookie but the fact that the treat drooled all over the place after the breading was broken was a total ‘nope’ for us.

Ranking: 1 out of 5 Cowboy Hats


Takeaways: Brown goo, a new take on the ‘cinnamon challenge’ with confectioner’s sugar

Scorpion, Mealworm & Cricket Pizza

Photo Credit: D. Koch 2014

Maybe I’m rating this higher than a 1 because I was really hungry (read, hangry). I’ve eaten bugs before on purpose; Candied grasshoppers and cockroaches, teriyaki scorpions and centipedes among other weird things so my expectation for the pizza was fairly positive. I ordered a slice for $10 (TEN DOLLARS!) and was greeted with mealworms standing up on their end, wingless crickets and one dilapidated scorpion. I don’t know what tasted foul, the cheese or the bugs. Everything was dry and dirt-flavoured. For ten bucks, you could at least put some bugs on a primo piece of pizza. The scorpion still had some substance, but the crickets and mealworms were so dry and hollow it was like biting into a stale chip filled with air. This is the only food I did not finish simply because I could have gotten better pizza from a garbage bin.

Ranking: 2 out of 5 Cowboy Hats


Takeaways: Tastelessness, legs stuck in my teeth, high price

Maple Bacon Doughnut Cheeseburger

Photo Credit: D. Koch 2014

This was both fulfilling and disgusting all in one quick-serve meal. I’m one of those horrible Canadians who dislikes anything maple. This bad-boy was a cheeseburger with maple doughnuts acting as buns. The patty, cheese and bacon were all pretty tasty. The fact that the grease from the meat was melting away the maple glaze, creating a sticky coating of sweet/savoury that made my palate shriek with confusion and horror was enough to keep me from eating the entire thing. Thankfully I had two other members of my team to help. It was actually fairly comical how fast I requested a hand-washing station once we were through with the ‘burger’.

Ranking: 2 out of 5 Cowboy Hats


Takeaways: Maple, proximity of hand-washing station from food stall

Flower Cotton Candy

Photo Credit: D. Koch 2014

Another high-priced item, ringing in at $10 for a whopping $0.10 of sugar, the remainder of the value was found in the labour (each piece took about five minutes to craft). I got to pick my colours and watched the master at work. They were using coloured brown sugar rather than white which gave the flower a very robust, deep flavour. The three of us destroyed the bloom in under a minute. R.I.P., cotton candy art.

Ranking: 3 out of 5 Cowboy Hats


Takeaways: Complexity, high price

Perogie Poutine

Photo Credit: D. Koch 2014

Oh my gosh, perogies. This in itself is enough to get me intrigued. Smother them with fries, cheese curds and gravy? Where’s the wheelchair because I’m going to be too large to walk myself off the grounds. The perogies were pretty tasty, along with the sausage that was smothered in sour cream and gravy. The poutine portion itself was a tad disappointing. Poorly-cooked crinkle-cut fries, very little cheese and watery gravy lapped in the bottom of the cardboard tray after we had massacred the meal. I’d go back for a second one, just no fries please.

Ranking: 3 out of 5 Cowboy Hats


Takeaways: Limp fries, perogies in anything (mmm…)

Mini Doughnuts

Photo Credit: D. Koch 2014

Ah yes mini doughnuts. A midway staple no matter where you are in North America. The company who technically invented these little treats and patented the machine they use graces us with their presence every year on the Stampede midway for $5 a dozen. Best use of money ever! They’re hot, sweet and greasy. A perfect balance of cake and crisp, fried outside. Everyone knows the smell of mini-doughnuts, I hope you don’t pass these up the next time you smell them.

Ranking: 4 out of 5 Cowboy Hats


Takeaways: Deliciousness, price, midway classic

Deep-Fried Macaroni & Cheese

Photo Credit: D. Koch 2014

Triangles of Heaven is what these should be called. Delicious, piping hot macaroni and cheese breaded in fine crumb served with nothing but napkins. They’re not too saucy to be a mess but not too dry to be disappointing. We all burned our mouths on them though, so be careful because I’m pretty sure they’re baked in a nuclear reactor. They were pretty greasy, served in a tray of seven with four napkins. I used a napkin per and was still whining for another hand-wash station. If it wasn’t for the last entry, I would have gone back for a second order. Mmm cheese…

Ranking: 4 out of 5 Cowboy Hats


Takeaways: Perfect little triangles, brings me back to my college days, grease

Turkey Dinner Poutine

Photo Credit: D. Koch 2014

Literally just like Grandma used to make. Delicious hand-cut fries, thick gravy, aromatic bread stuffing, real cranberries and a mound of juicy, well-seasoned turkey breast that reminded us of Christmas and Thanksgiving rolled into one takeaway container. This was another dish served directly from a volcano-oven, so we had to take turns playing ‘hot-potato’ with the container until it decided to cool down. (Side note: You don’t place your food down at the risk someone else will smell what’s cooking and approach asking to share). This had all the right herbs and spices, the fries were golden-brown and crisp, the gravy had an amazing fat ratio that made it stick to everything. Oh – and cheese curds! Hello.

Ranking: 5 out of 5 Leopard-Print Cowboy Hats (because why not)

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Takeaways: Turkey. Poutine. Cheese.

All in all, we spent a lot of money on food that would make any nutritionist have nightmares and cold-sweats. But it was totally worth it. My jeans are tighter now than ever and I’m proud of my Stampede Belly. Want to see our Food & Fun gallery? Check out the Facebook Album.

Tickets for the 2015 Calgary Stampede (July 3rd-12th) go on sale October 6th, 2014. Hope to see you, cowboys and cowgirls!