July 10 2012 by Bryson Forbes
We touched down in Calgary last night in the early evening and were met with fanfare and cowboy hats. After picking up our rental chariot for the week we checked into the BEST WESTERN PREMIER Freeport Inn and Suites and were immediately impressed. This was my first experience with a BEST WESTERN PREMIER and it did not disappoint (more details in tomorrows blog).
One of the great benefits that we experienced immediately was the onsite restaurant and lounge and they were extremely accommodating. There were 11 of us and they provided us with a private area, superb service, food and a great selection of wines.
We woke up to clear skies and cool weather compared to where we came from (heat advisories in Toronto for last 10 days!) and the best FREE continental breakfast I've ever had. Customized omelettes, sausages, assorted coffees, teas, cereals, oatmeal, fresh fruit, fresh juices and a waffle station. That breakfast easily would have cost us $50 and it was complimentary! Great start and a benefit that travellers need to include in the equation when deciding on where to stay. Over the next 9 days, we are going to save at least $200 on breakfast which basically pays for a night's accommodation!
But the real reason we were here was for the Calgary Stampede and it was time to hit the kick-off parade. Being that this is the 100th Anniversary of the Stampede, the buzz and hoopla was even more pronounced which makes it VERY exciting but makes pre-planning and booking events in advance mandatory. Kudos to my sister who booked several events for us months ago so we are all set. We had pre-booked 20 tickets in the bleachers for the parade and literally sat in the first row with my legs dangling into the street.
The parade was by far the most grandiose and expansive I have ever witnessed. No fewer than 120 floats went by ranging from massive Clydesdale horses to miniature ponies, from marching bands to army tanks. We even saw a cowboy trot by riding a 2,000 pound bull! There was the obvious cowboy heritage theme throughout but also representation from many corners of the world including Germany, China, Denmark, Mexico, Australia, and The States to name only a few.
The parade lasted about two hours. The kids and I thought we'd count cowboy hats as a game and have since decided to count those without - it will be much easier. Everyone in Calgary has the Western spirit!
Tonight is a little adult time as Ruth and I are heading out for a Stampede party, dinner and drinks with my sister and brother-in-law. The city of Calgary, has as expected, shut down for what is being billed as the Greatest Show on Earth. Our initial experience certainly supports that claim!