Anything is possible at the Calgary Stampede – like the fact I aged more than two decades in just five years.
We moved to Calgary from Kingston, Ont., in June 2012. A couple weeks after arriving in Alberta, I’d ditched sandals for cowboy boots and headed with my husband and son for the first time to the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
Summer of 2012, I had a zip in my step. I’d just been hired for the morning show on Q107 Calgary. I was regularly running five kilometres and I had only three grey hairs.
I was feeling so good, in fact, I was willing to try to win my son a prize at the booth where the Stampede worker guesses your age or weight. If she’s wrong by enough years or pounds, the participant (victim?) wins a prize.
People always say you should appreciate how you look now because years later, you’ll look back on old photos and think, “damn, I looked good.”
In 2012? Damn, I looked good. I was nine pounds thinner. (Yes, I am claiming it’s nine, not 10).
Watch Kevin guess my age in 2012 and make my day:
Fast forward five years to Stampede 2017. After hours on the grounds, our wallets were empty and our stomachs were full of corn dogs. My son convinced me to stop again at the Guess Your Age booth.
I have a few more grey hairs and a bigger muffin top than five years ago, but the Stampede worker was so kind last time, I thought it could be a great ego boost again.
Still, I asked the woman running the game to be gentle.
“OK, I promise I’ll guess low!” she squealed, as she looked me up and down a few times and then scrawled a number on a piece of paper.
She flashed her guess to my husband.
His face fell faster than the Stampede Mega Drop, which plummets riders 40 metres in two seconds.
“We should go, Sarah,” my husband said to me.
I snatched the paper from the woman’s hand.
Fifty. 5-0. 50.
“You think I’m 50?!” I screamed.
She’d added a decade to my age.
I grabbed my husband’s phone and immediately deleted the photos and video I ordered him to take of the guess and reveal.
In 2012, Stampede said I was 28.
In 2017, Stampede believed I was 50.
Fifty. 5-0. 50.
Maybe it’s time this summer to ditch my cowboy boots for running shoes – except my black boots have been with me since Bryan Adams’ (Everything I Do) I Do It For You was a No. 1 hit, Full House (not the Fuller House reboot) was a must-watch show, and Thelma & Louise had everyone buzzing about feminism – almost 30 years before #MeToo and #TimesUp.
I bought my cowboy boots while on a family vacation in Montana the summer before I started Grade 9 – that was 1991.
Who am I kidding? They’ve got many Stampedes left in ’em.
My other Stampede tradition is hitting up the games with my son, who’s now 11.
Every summer, I tell my husband I’m spending $100 on the midway games, but I actually spend a bit* more than that. Whack-A-Mole is our favourite, but we also throw baseballs at plates, squirt water guns into tiny targets and climb rope ladders. My son is the proud owner of a giant smiling stuffed corn he won by scaling the braided beast, reaching the top of the course and hitting the victory bell.
(* ”Bit” can’t be specified due to the fact it would give my husband a heart attack.)
While at this year’s Stampede, you may want to wear shorts with an extra pocket because you’ll need somewhere to stuff that kangaroo burger while you’re playing Whack-A-Mole.
Some of the other 50-plus new midway foods include:
- Cricket grilled cheese: Four-cheese blend on thick Texas-style toast, topped with a healthy serving of crunchy, tasty crickets
- Prairie oyster balls: Classic mini doughnut Bear Balls, topped with the balls of a bull – literally
- The hangover mac & cheese: Classic, creamy and gourmet macaroni and cheese, blended with frothy beer and topped with smashed potato chips and pretzels
- Kangaroo pizza: Avatara Pizza’s signature crust topped with vine-ripened, naturally sweet crushed tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, organic basil, banana peppers, locally-grown mushrooms and cured kangaroo sausage
The Stampede also features midway rides, including a new zip line that darts almost four football fields in length across Stampede Park and concerts such as Blue Rodeo at the Big Four Roadhouse on July 8 and Luke Bryan at the Scotiabank Saddledome on July 14.
Animal lovers can check out a miniature horse show, sheep showcase and miniature donkey demos.
Visitors to Indian Village experience Treaty 7 First Nations traditions and cultures. There are 26 teepees, dancing and drumming displays and a bannock booth.
And, of course, the heart of Stampede is the rodeo, chuckwagon races and grandstand shows.
More than one million guests visit every year.
Watch below: what to expect at the 2018 Calgary Stampede
There are numerous deals for the cost-conscious. Immediately following the opening day parade, admission is free from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Regular admission is $18 and $9 for youth and seniors. Children six years and younger are admitted free.
Being told I look 28 back in 2012? Priceless.
Trying to get the same compliment five years later? Costly. Apparently waking up at 3 a.m. five days a week for my radio gig ages a girl – er, senior citizen? But, because the booth employee’s guess on my age was so far off, my son did get a stuffed bear.
So, really, I was a winner and you know what they say: Third time’s a charm – Stampede 2018.
The Calgary Stampede kicks off Friday with the annual parade and runs until July 15.
© 2018 Corus Radio, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.