It's almost time for the annual 10-day whirlwind of rides, rodeos and the rallying cry "Yahoo!" that heralds the Calgary Stampede.
The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth can seem a little overwhelming, so we've narrowed down all the great activities to 10 that are absolute musts for Stampede greenhorns and old hats alike.
1. Watch the Stampede Parade
Musicians Paul Brandt and Jann Arden will be the parade marshals for the 2016 Calgary Stampede. (Photo: Jeff McIntosh/CP)
The Stampede Parade kicks off the Greatest Outdoor Show on Friday with over 150 entries — that's 30 marching bands, 40 floats and 750 horses.
Parade marshals and musicians Jann Arden and Paul Brandt will lead the procession, which also be paying homage this year to the firefighters of Fort McMurray.
2. Sample the strangest foods on the midway
This concoction is called a Saturday Morning Beaver Ball. (Photo: Calgary Stampede)
This year, the Calgary Stampede has 34 strange new foods including sweet grasshopper popsicles, savoury poutine corn dogs, and the difficult-to-describe fruit-infused grilled cheese.
3. Try axe-throwing
Axe Throwing Calgary will give aspiring lumberjacks the chance to show off their skills in Stampede's Adventure Park.
Competitive visitors can also challenge their friends to a game of paintball or race up a double-climbing wall.
4. Have a bannock picnic
Visitors stroll past the tipis in Indian Village in 2015. (Photo: Gettystock)
Visit the Stampede's Indian Village for a bannock picnic. Picnic bags include a blanket, two drinks, and two bannock meals. Spread out on the grass and watch the tipi-raising contest while you chow down on the traditional aboriginal treat.
Or head off the grounds to nearby Scotsman's Hill for a perfect view of the evening fireworks with your picnic.
5. Escape from the Wild West Jail
A Calgary-based escape room company has created a specialized experience for Stampede-goers.
Teams will have 10 minutes to escape from a distracted sheriff by solving Western-themed puzzles.
“It’s going to be a great option for people looking for a break from the sun, or rain (knock on wood),” said Kyle Fitzgerald, co-founder of The Locked Room, in a release.
6. Find out who's top dog at the Dog Bowl
The Stampede bid farewell to the Superdogs after 37 years, replacing them with a new outdoor attraction called the Dog Bowl.
This new show features The Canine Stars, a group of rescue dogs that will perform incredible stunts from dock diving to high jumps.
7. Chow down on free pancakes
Now that's a Stampede breakfast. (Photo: Reuters)
Stampede is the only time of year it's easy to eat for free for almost every meal — if you're willing to line up and fill up on flapjacks. Hundreds of stampede breakfasts are staggered across the city, and entrepreneurial eaters have created websites and apps to keep track of it all.
8. Learn how to live like a cowboy
The Agrium Centre celebrates the best of Alberta agriculture while allowing visitors a glimpse of what it really takes to live life on a ranch.
Everything from sheep-shearing to blacksmithing will be on display, as well as plenty of chances to visit some adorable farm animals.
9. Star in a Canadian GIF
Here's a chance to show off your creative side. The National Film Board (NFB) is bringing its GIFnTAKE videobooth. The studio gives you and your friends a chance to insert yourselves into a favourite Canadian short film.
The finished product is exported as a GIF to share on social media. The best part? It's free!
10. Explore Calgary's cultural diversity
The Calgary Stampede partnered up with Globalfest to transform the Big Four building into a new International Pavilion. The top floor will showcase diverse performers from both around the globe and right here in Calgary, while the basement food market will be chock-full of new flavours to try.
Pop downstairs first to grab some carnitas from Anejo before watching the high-flying Peking Acrobats perform.
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