Calgary Stampede 2018: 7 reasons to jump on the bandwagon

Kate Springer, CNNUpdated 6th July 2018
(CNN) — It's time to break in those cowboy boots: The Calgary Stampede for 2018 is hurdling through Calgary, Canada, from July 6 to 15.
Dubbed "the greatest outdoor show on Earth," the annual 10-day festival attracts more than one million visitors every year -- all flocking to Canada's third-largest city for one of the world's largest rodeos, nonstop music, crazy food and lively entertainment.
While not every review of Calgary Stampede is positive -- there's been a fair share of international criticism by animal rights groups -- "Stampede City" shows no signs of slowing down.
The festival-slash-rodeo has grown every year since its inception in 1886, originally kicking off as an agricultural fair.
First time at the Stampede? From outlandish snacks to live music, races and local rituals, here are seven reasons to hop on the Calgary Stampede bandwagon.

Pancake breakfasts

Breakfast of champions.
Breakfast of champions.
Andy Nichols/Calgary Stampede
There's only one way to start your Calgary Stampede experience: with a pancake breakfast.
For more than 85 years, Calgary community groups have been hosting these friendly breakfasts across the city, typically serving up heaping plates of flapjacks and sausages in malls or parking lots, block-party style.
One of the largest breakfasts can be found at the Chinook Centre shopping mall, where hundreds of Stampede Caravan Committee volunteers flip free pancakes every morning of the Stampede.
Chinook Centre, 6455 Macleod Trail SW, Calgary, Alberta, T2H 0K8 Canada, +403 259-2022

White-knuckle rodeo

If you're interested in rodeo, Calgary Stampede is the best place to witness the professionals in action.
Throughout the 10-day festival, athletes compete across six core tournaments, including everything from bareback riding to steer wrestling, bull-riding and ladies barrel racing (where a rider and horse race around barrels as quickly as possible).
At the stadium, you'll be shaking in your boots as bulls and horses writhe around in chaos, bucking and jumping in an attempt to toss riders into the dirt.

Nightly entertainment

If you're still standing by sunset, you'll be rewarded with energy-packed shows all evening long. Each night, the action starts with a chuckwagon derby, where drivers (on wagons) steer a team of galloping horses around the stadium.
Next comes the TransAlta Grandstand Show -- picture gravity-defying acrobatics, singing, dancing and fireworks. Each year, the country's top talents take part in the versatile theatrical performance.
In 2018, they're celebrating the show's golden anniversary with a special "The Grandstand Show: 50" celebration.

Nonstop music

Throughout the festival, tunes continuously blast from the Calgary Stampede's concert venues, where dozens of up-and-coming acts and established performers will perform across 10 days on various stages.
Here's a sampling of some the acts you can see in 2018:
-- Coca-Cola stage: The Rural Alberta Advantage, Sheryl Crowe, the Funk Hunters.
-- Nashville North: Randy Houser, The Road Hammers, Leaving Thomas.

Fantastical carnival food

The Calgary Stampede is a culinary wonderland, where outrageous edible inventions come to life.
With hundreds of food trucks, booths and beer gardens, you can easily spend 10 days taste-testing the long list of imaginative foods -- particularly at the Calgary Stampede Midway (see below).
Meanwhile, those on an all-deep-fried diet can devour crispy Canadian Bacon Pickle Balls and Funnel Cake Poutine until their jeans split.

Epic kick-off parade

The action kicks off on July 6 with a time-honored Calgary tradition: the Stampede Parade.
The 2.5-mile parade is one of the biggest events on the Calgary calendar, featuring hundreds of floats, horses, marching bands and dancers.

Thrilling rides

Think the rodeo is topsy-turvy? So too are the rides in the Calgary Stampede Midway, where every manner of thrill ride awaits. Some of the stomach churning highlights:

-- Crazy Mouse roller coaster: This is one known for its hairpin turns!
-- Giant Wheel: Get great, circular views of the fairgrounds on this one.
-- Polar Express: Feel the Alberta wind in your face and you go around and around and around and around.
For the younger set, there's a merry-go-round, a little Jeep ride and much more.