By Katie Lister
Alberta is the hub of Canada’s cowboy culture and people flock here for the Calgary Stampede in July and the Canadian Finals Rodeo in November – two of the province’s most popular events. But there are reasons for cowboys and their wannabes to visit Alberta year-round.
Travel AlbertaWhat better way to observe Alberta’s cowboy culture than staying on an actual working ranch where guests can ride and work alongside working cowboys. Clients can join in a wide range of daily ranch activities including cattle work, feeding the animals and necessary chores. Rolyn Hills Bed and Breakfast and Guest Ranch in Red Deer and Sierra West Cabins and Ranch Vacations, located at the base of the Livingstone Mountain Range in Southwestern Alberta are two options to mention to your clients.
If your client’s idea of a true western experience involves exploring the rustic foothills of Alberta and the Rocky Mountains, then suggest a backcountry vacation. Guests experience the real West just as the early explorers and trappers did riding horses, fishing, canoeing and hiking through Alberta’s scenic wilderness. This kind of holiday gives a new meaning to “roughing it.” Rest assured, all backcountry camps are impeccably clean and safe. Wild Deuce Retreats & Outfitting and Bighorn Horseback Adventure are outfitters to check out.
Alberta isn’t all rough and tough, however. For those with families or clients who simply want to sit back and observe the cowboy culture, relaxing country vacations are also an option. Stay with host families who will show you some good ol’ fashioned western hospitality or rent your own country cottage. Get back to Western Canadian roots at Wild Rose Guest Ranch by the picturesque Peace River or at Southern Alberta’s Bloomin’ Inn.
Step into a vast, carved prairie landscape carpeted with fossilized dinosaur bones as well as various parks and rodeos. This is the Canadian Badlands: a lightly-populated area that covers parts of southern and eastern Alberta. Unique sculpted formations and rolling prairies bisected by coulees and deep river valleys create a magical setting for any western-themed holiday.
For a real cowboy experience, round up the troops to watch an authentic livestock auction or sit back and observe the excitement of a rodeo. Then trot over to Drumheller to learn about dinosaur findings and other western histories at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Travel AlbertaA unique way to see the Canadian Badlands is a ride on a steam or diesel-powered train with Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions. These folks will take your clients on the ride of a lifetime with different themes enacted throughout the day including murder mysteries, dinner theatre, family or seniors themes. The train departs Stettler, Alberta, about three hours from Calgary, and returns five-to-six hours later. During the excursion the notorious “Reynolds Raiders” may stop the train. These fearless outlaws frequent the Badlands to hold up passing trains. But Gabriel Dumont, the Canadian Metis hero will save the day. After a quick gun battle, the money the outlaws took from innocent passengers is reclaimed and donated to a few of Alberta’s favourite children’s charities. All train trips include a full course buffet meal.
As we said, one of the main reasons for a trip to Alberta is to be a part of The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth: the Calgary Stampede. This ten-day celebration attracts over a million visitors each July and the main appeal is the rodeo – competitions for top spot in bareback, bull riding, ladies’ barrel racing, saddle bronc, steer wrestling, tie-down roping and wild pony racing.
While they’re there, clients should visit the agriculture barns to see who’s winning the blue ribbons, then, mosey on over to the enormous midway to enjoy the live music while they’re waiting for the Rangeland Derby Chuckwagon races to begin. Early evening brings stage show entertainment. July not soon enough? If your clients visit mid-March, they can take in the Rodeo Royal, a mid-winter rodeo where the Stampede Queen and her Princesses are selected.
Edmonton is home to the Canadian Finals Rodeo in November, which draws talent from the North American rodeo circuit to compete for prize money in the Canadian Championship events. There’s a pancake breakfast, agricultural exhibitions, chilli cook-off, bingo and performances by international music stars.
Beginning in the southern Alberta town of Cardston and heading north along the eastern slopes of the mountains for more than 700 kilometres5 to Mayerthorpe, the historic Cowboy Trail is home to many working cowboys, country fairs, western art, antiques and collectibles, pow wows, small-town rodeos as well as museums and historical sites. Visit Rocky Mountain House Museum, the Remington Carriage Museum and the Leighton Art Centre, Gallery and Museum to be immersed in true cowboy culture.
Alberta offers the best of the best when it comes to cowboy culture. Sell Alberta and you’ll have your clients clicking their spurs and riding off into the sunset in no time.
Travel AlbertaWagons Ho!
An authentic western holiday wouldn’t be complete without watching a chuckwagon race. Originally, a chuckwagon was used to carry food and cooking equipment on the prairies; it would form a part of a wagon train of settlers or feed nomadic workers like cowboys or loggers. Nowadays, chuckwagons are raced around a figure eight barrel obstacle, with the stove and tent poles within the wagon hopefully still intact. The racing team also has from two to four “outriders” who load the stove and tent poles at the beginning of the race and must finish with the chuckwagon. These events are held throughout Alberta and usually include rodeos, fairs and other forms of good old fashioned western entertainment. Check out the Calgary Rangeland Derby (part of the Stampede), the Edmonton Chuckwagon Derby or the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association Finals.
For more information, visit www.travelalberta.com.