Feature

Getting the flavor of...Wild West Calgary

Calgary’s annual rodeo festival is the “closest thing Canada has to Mardi Gras.”

Wild West Calgary
Calgary’s annual rodeo festival is the “closest thing Canada has to Mardi Gras,” said Spud Hilton in the San Francisco Chronicle. During the 10-day Calgary Stampede—which kicks off July 6 this year—the normally mild-mannered capital of Alberta throws itself into “the rowdy embrace” of a festival that honors “all things Wild West.” Straw cowboy hats replace Mardi Gras beads for the million-plus visitors who descend on the city for rodeos, mechanical bulls, and flapjack breakfasts. Those flapjacks can be key—because most activities involve beer consumption. School buses are converted to raucous pub-crawl shuttles, and temporary nightclubs are set up in massive tents. “If there’s a major difference” between the Stampede and rodeos in the U.S., it’s Calgary’s chuck-wagon races. These events are like “Roman chariot races with Stetsons.” Even though the wagons’ tarps are all emblazoned with sponsors’ logos, “I still don’t know who won.”

A rolling river feast
A voyage on the American Queen, the largest steamboat ever built (greatamericansteamboatcompany.com), can be a “pleasantly lazy” experience, said Neil Genzlinger in The New York Times. On a recent round-trip cruise between New Orleans and Vicksburg, Miss., the best exercise I got was walking from my cabin to lectures, piano bar sessions, and a performance by a Mark Twain imitator. Dining was a favored pastime, though, and the food was “better than food on a boat has a right to be.” When a minor scrape with a barge brought in the Coast Guard, “considerable consternation” arose that this might somehow interfere with dinner. We were warmly welcomed at various ports of call, but I don’t think many of us spent much money on land. My ride on this steamboat, which had been idle since 2008’s economic downturn, cost $2,584. Then again, the vanilla cheesecake I had on my second night “convinced me that I hadn’t paid nearly enough.” 

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