To Stampede or not to Stampede, that was the question around our house last week. We hadn’t set foot in The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth since 2009. [And after rereading that choice nugget of a blog post, I think we made the right decision.] I knew the older boys, especially, would enjoy going. But I wasn’t sure I would enjoy traipsing around in the ‘dire’ heat with three young children, one of whom prefers that I carry him at the most inopportune times. And there was also the matter of spending vast amounts of money on crappy rides and even crappier food and those un-win-able games that kids insist on playing because their life ambition is to win a stuffed panda bear the size of Rhode Island.
So we nixed The Show, but I still wanted the boys to have some sort of Stampede experience; to provide them a little bit of context to the head-scratching custom that is all of Calgary wearing western clothing for ten days straight. (Eleven, if you include sneak-a-peek Thursday.) It sounds sweet, nearly patriotic, but trust me: if you find yourself in, say, a liquor store on Day 9, and you come across two girls wearing shirts buttoned to their navels and cowboy shorts cut-off to their hip bones, all in the name of ‘Stampede’ you might have an over-the-top reaction a la Elaine.
All this to say, I took the boys to a Stampede Breakfast at a shopping mall last week. The only Stampede Breakfast I’d gone to was the one at the professor’s work, so this was a new experience all around. Loading the boys in the van at 9am, driving the deserted-from-the-crazy-night-before roads, and trying to find a parking spot amidst the madness. And queuing for less-than-professor-calibre pancakes and my nemesis: Aunt Jemima syrup.
We ate our pancakes and sausage and the boys eagerly drank their lukewarm boxes of orange juice. And then we made our way to the pony rides. Our oldest boy-wonder is going through a bit of a stage where he doesn’t want to do anything for fear (1) that he won’t like it, or (2) that it is ’embarrassing’. Occasionally, like when he had the chance to ride in a canoe with his dad, but refused, I can bribe him into compliance with a box of Smarties. And then, inevitably, he finds out he loves the thing that he feared most. But occasionally, he is un-bribe-able, which is why only two of the Johnson boys sat on the back of a pony that day.
Since this year was the 100th anniversary of the Stampede, they set off fireworks each weekend from four different locations. So on Sunday, the very last night of Stampede, despite the fact that the boys were crazy after a very long day of dinosaurs, we decided to go for it.
We loaded our pajama-clad cherubs in the car just after 10pm and drove to North Glenmore Park. We parked in the gravel lot because the road had been closed and walked in. On foot. Because the professor, trying to be on the ball for the next day’s airport run, had removed the stroller from the car.
Suffice it to say, there was a lot of carrying children in the dark, a lot of running and falling in the dark and more than one instance of tears, but finally, just before 11pm, we found ourselves at the designated playground with front-row seats to the display.
Though the professor and I each carried a child in our arms for the 2km walk back to the car, and could barely move the next day, it was totally worth it.