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GUIDE

A guide to the 2016 Calgary Stampede

The Calgary Stampede is often called "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth." Mayaz Alam breaks down what you need to know to make the most of your Stampede experience

A Calgary Stampede ranch girl carries the Canadian flag to start the rodeo at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, July 5, 2015.

A Calgary Stampede ranch girl carries the Canadian flag to start the rodeo at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Alberta, July 5, 2015.

Todd Korol/For The Globe and Mail

Is it a rodeo? A festival? An exhibition? To locals it's just "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth."

Although the oil patch has been hit hard in the past two years, the Calgary Stampede still promises to be the event of the year. Here's a guide on how to make the most of this year's Calgary Stampede.

The main attractions

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The central event of the Calgary Stampede is the rodeo. There are six major events happening each day: wrestling, saddle bronc, bareback, ladies barrel racing, tie-down roping and steer wrestling. Competitors face off in one of the largest and most famous events of its kind in the world. There are tickets for each day but these can be purchased ahead of time for a particular day or event.

Each night at 7:45 p.m. is a back-to-back combination of the GMC Rangeland Derby, a chuckwagon race in which drivers are led by a team of horses, and the TransAlta Grandstand Show. The latter has different entertainers including performances from the Alberta Ballet and a tight-rope walker who walks on fire.

The Stampede Midway offers games of all kinds for all ages. Visitors can throw axes, shoot paintballs, and go on theme park-esque rides. For more relaxed attractions, check out the giant ferris wheel or the children's pedal tractor pull.

Blair Burk from Durant, Oklahoma flips a calve in the tie-down roping event during the Calgary Stampede rodeo in Calgary, Alberta, July 5, 2015.

Blair Burk from Durant, Oklahoma flips a calve in the tie-down roping event during the Calgary Stampede rodeo in Calgary, Alberta, July 5, 2015.

Todd Korol for The Globe and Mail, file

Tips for first timers

Anyone who has been to previous years' events will say that waiting in line is the most common activity of any day at the Stampede. Whether it be waiting to get on the CTrain or waiting for free pancakes in the morning, a lot of time is bound to be spent standing up. Make sure to wear comfortable footwear and, if you get bored easily, bring something that'll help occupy the time.

Make sure to dress appropriately for both the surroundings and the weather. It is a country western festival so cowboy hats and boots are optimal. Weather-wise, temperatures aren't expected to exceed 25 C while lows should be in the low double digits throughout the Stampede.

Stay hydrated, and save the money you'd otherwise spend on water bottles, by bringing your own water bottle. There are water fountains across the park and it'll also help you stay sober (bars and restauirants across Calgary can sell alcohol starting at 8 a.m. during the Stampede). Another cost-effective plan is to bring your own food for lunch and dinner, which will also help you avoid the lines.

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The Calgary Stampede show band plays for fans before the start of the rodeo in Calgary, Alberta, July 5, 2015.

The Calgary Stampede show band plays for fans before the start of the rodeo in Calgary, Alberta, July 5, 2015.

Todd Korol for The Globe and Mail, file

Maximizing value and affordability

The program includes a variety of " value days" designed to maximize affordability and experience. On BMO Kids' Day, there's free admission for children under 12 and adults who accompany them between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. This is followed up by a free breakfast where you'll get to enjoy the Stampede's famous pancakes plus a free variety show on the Grandstand stage.

A variety of organizations and companies have booths set up throughout the Stampede grounds and many have raffles, giveaways, and special deals. They also sometimes have free coupons for events. Most importantly, they'll try and get your attention with free food.

If you're a big music fan, the Coca-Cola stage has a performance each night. Artists vary by genre and headliners include Canadian favourites such as Simple Plan and Walk Off The Earth. For country fans looking to catch the biggest names or the next big thing, Nashville North has you covered. In addition to headline acts such as Tim Hicks and Cold Creek County there's an annual Nashville North Star competition which gives amateur musicians the chance to make their dreams come true. The best part? Admission into the concerts are free with your daily pass.

Tanner Milan, of Cochrane, Alta., competes in the steer wrestling event during Calgary Stampede rodeo action in Calgary, in a July 5, 2015, file photo.

Tanner Milan, of Cochrane, Alta., competes in the steer wrestling event during Calgary Stampede rodeo action in Calgary, in a July 5, 2015, file photo.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh, File

Safety first

The Stampede has gained notoriety for its partying. Calls for a safer Stampede experience have resulted in #SafeStampede, which was originally a social media campaign used to spread awareness of sexual harassment during the festival. The grassroots initiative has partnered with the Stampede's organizing committee this year and has evolved into a resource for information about sexual harassment and consent.

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Additionally, Calgary Police Services will be on site in the Big Four Building on the north side of the park. With more than a million visitors expected for the event, it's important to stay alert in crowds and while you wait in line.

There's also a system in place for lost kids, if you're planning on bringing children with you to the Stampede. There is a Lost Kids Patrol and a Lost Kids Centre in the Big Four Building in case any children are found wandering alone.

Travelling to the Stampede

Parking is limited on the grounds but there are a variety of other ways to get to the Stampede. From the evening of July 7 to the morning of July 17 the CTrain, Calgary's light rail system, will be running 24 hours. The Stampede Express Bus will also be running from North Pointe Terminal to the Stampede Grounds. Day passes for Calgary's transit system will be discounted for the duration of Stampede. If you prefer to travel on two wheels you can also store your bike at bicycle corrals, which are located at entrances.

How to dress like a (wannabe) cowboy for the Calgary Stampede

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