Most Canadians have heard of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but not everybody gets the chance to attend. As the official airline sponsor of the Calgary Stampede, WestJet invited five lucky WestJet Rewards Gold tier members to redeem WestJet dollars and come down to Cow-town. These five cowboys and cowgirls flew over 300(!) times collectively in the last twelve months, so they were due for a little R & R.
Once arriving in Calgary and settling in at Hotel Arts, guests were greeted by WestJet Executive Vice-President, Tim Croyle, and his wife Doris, as well as Dana and Jessica from WestJet’s Loyalty Marketing team. We then moseyed over to dinner at Vintage Chophouse, where getting to know each other was the name of the game. Vintage put on a meal to remember, where Alberta AAA Beef Filet was the show stopper. If you haven’t been yet, you are truly missing out. The ambiance and service were exceptional, and the group left feeling satisfied and ready to hit the hay.
The following morning is where the real excitement began. After saddling up to a private and authentic Stampede breakfast (pancakes, in case you didn’t know), these new friends needed to ride over to the Stampede grounds. Fun fact-in 1923 the first free Stampede breakfast was held at a campsite just outside the railway station close to downtown Calgary. Chuck wagon driver Jack Morton invited his loved ones and visitors to enjoy free pancakes, creating a tradition that till exists today!
So after attempting to round up some local horses, we opted to take the GMC Courtesy cars available to Stampede Sponsors. A brand-new Yukon smells better than a Palomino, trust me! The shuttle took us on the grounds and around the infield, pulling up right beside where the animals were resting, and cowboys were getting ready for the afternoon. I’m talking real cowboys too, not the nearly 1.3 million visitors decked out in plaid shirts, Levi’s and stiff cowboy hats with price tags freshly removed!
Upon entering the infield suite that would be our home base for the afternoon, watching the guests eyes light up was better than anything else. None of the guests had ever been to the rodeo, and they didn’t really know what to expect. Thankfully, a little Rodeo 101 session had been pre-arranged, and Bill (from the Calgary Stampede) gave us a lesson about what to expect. From how the cowboys are scored to how the animals are raised and cared for, everyone was captivated by his every word. Did you know, for example, that participation at the Calgary Stampede is by invitation only? Or that the animals are bread specifically for their “bucking” ability?
The next several hours were spent watching the rodeo, enjoying amazing food and drinks in great company. The excitement was palpable, and when Bull Rider Marco Gloria showed up to say hello, the group (okay, mostly the ladies) were ecstatic. He was a great sport, and went on the next day to win the 2018 Stampede Bull Riding Championship, taking home a cool $100,000. Congrats to our new friend!
Our Gold tier members and their guests enjoyed the rest of the evening at their leisure, where some took in the Chuckwagon races, others strolled the grounds, and a few took in dinner and then giddy up’d early to bed. Sunday saw everyone safe on their way home, with a successful weekend behind us. The hospitality of Calgary and the Stampede was great, and we now begin the countdown to next year. Yahoo!!