Today started with a long drive back from Jasper along the highway east of the mountains. Tonight was our first day in the Stampede, and it was raining. That meant we really didn’t do much exploring since every place with a roof was packed. I also managed to restrain myself from buying a molded plastic cowboy hat for $20. We did listen to an AC/DC cover band on one of the stages. Yes, the lead guitarist is wearing a cow suit. Yes, that was the only memorable feature of the band.
The event for the evening was the chuck wagon races. This whole sport is one big mess. The key thing to understand is its not just four chuckwagons (with four hourses each) on the track, its four chuckwagons plus four outriders per wagon. When the race starts, the outriders have to load the camp stove and tent pegs in the back of the wagon, then jump on their horses as the chuck wagons race away. They need to catch up because if all four outriders aren’t at least 150 feet behind the chuckwagon when it finishes, there is a time penalty. So you usually have one or two wagons fighting for the lead, followed around the track by a gigantic mob of people and horses.
For the math majors out there, that’s 32 horses and 20 humans racing in close proximity around the track. In the mud. One outrider actually got hit by a wagon and his horse had to be euthanized. Needless to say, everyone was covered in mud by the end of a race.
It’s a great concept for a sport, but it is really popular only in Western Canada. For an American audience, it would need more danger: spikes on the wheels, a second rider in each wagon firing flaming arrows at other wagons, outriders defending their wagon and trying to knock the other wagon out. Now that would be a sporting event.