The Calgary Stampede
My home city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada hosts The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede every July. The Stampede begins with a parade through the downtown core and lasts for 10 days. The entire city gets into the cowboy spirit with most businesses decorated with western themes and many people in cowboy garb. There are free pancake breakfasts, beer gardens and country music throughout the city. There are also the world famous rodeo and chuck wagon races held everyday.
July is a great time to visit Calgary because the entire city is in a party mood. There are countless events happening all over the city. The rodeo is one of the largest in the world and is probably a very unique event for most visitors. I would recommend to see it at least once if you have the chance.
In recent years the rodeo has become controversial because of several animal deaths every year. It does seem somewhat barbaric to use animals like this solely for entertainment purposes, however rodeo has a long tradition in the west. I am not sure if that is a valid justification but my wife and I have seen it a couple of times now. It is a lot like bull fighting in Spain. It is definitely inhumane to abuse animals for entertainment or sport but the spectacle is a huge tourist draw.
The typical festival rides and games of chance at the Stampede are particularly effective at extracting money from Stampede goers. There are also many free concerts, shows and attractions throughout the grounds. This year had a fantastic ice show with performances by Olympic skaters and Cirque du Soleil performers accompanied by a full-stage rock band. There were also dog shows, motorcycle daredevils, the regular hypnotist, countless live animals and of course, several beer gardens.
If you are going to visit Calgary during the summer I would definitely recommend trying to time it with the Calgary Stampede. The city is in a particularly festive mood and you are unlikely to see another event quite like this.