How Do You Celebrate Cowboys in Canada?
by Donna Alward, author of A Family for the Rugged Rancher, (Harlequin Romance, July 2011)
I was talking to a woman in New York at RWA Nationals and explaining what I wrote. Her response was, “I didn’t know there were cowboys in Canada!”
Well, heck yes there are! Some of the best beef in the world comes from Alberta! Then there are the horses… all set on the prairie with big skies, or in the rolling hills of British Columbia. The farmland is stunning, and, well, so are the cowboys in my opinion. Tall, rangy men with faded jeans and dusty boots and big belt buckles. Hard working guys with a gentle hand with the livestock and, at least in my book, with the ladies. I mean I love the look of a man in a suit but give me a working man with some calluses on his hands and good honest dirt on his shirt and I’m a goner.
So yeah, I write Canadian Westerns.
This week brings the Canadian West to the world because IT’S STAMPEDE WEEK! The Calgary Stampede is on and there is a reason it’s called The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. And because I lived in Calgary for a dozen years or so, I’m going to give you my top things to love about the Calgary Stampede.
- Stampede Breakfasts. They are hosted all over the city, most of the time for free, or sometimes within companies for the employees. Pancakes and sausage or bacon is guaranteed, but you never know – you might also find someone dishing up scrambled eggs, hash browns, or baked beans. The line up at the Chinook Mall breakfast is huge every year – they serve thousands.
- Music. The Coca Cola stage is always the scene for great music but there are events happening all over the downtown in the bars and on the Stampede Grounds in Nashville North. This year there are concerts with NKOTB and the Backstreet Boys and Katy Perry, the Coca Cola Stage (which is free) has State of Shock, Down with Webster and Fefe Dobson to name a few, and Nashville North (which requires you be 18 and over) has acts like Aaron Pritchett and Doc Walker. Shine up your boots and get your groove on.
- The Parade! And this year you get to see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in it! This brings new meaning to Stampede Royalty (usually reserved for the Stampede Princesses). The parade is fab and I think Calgary becomes the Marching Band Capital of the World during parade weekend. We usually stayed away from the crowds and watched it on TV.
- The food. Oh dear LORD, the food. I could list many things but I’ll keep it to my two favourites: Barbeque Beef on a Bun and Mini Donuts. The beef is shaved and tender and dripping with sauce and sandwiched in a big, chewy bun. The mini donuts disappear as fast as they are fried, and they melt in your mouth. Mine’s watering just thinking about it. Not so good for the waistline, but there are reasons why things become traditions.
- The Rodeo! You thought I was going to forget the actual rodeo, didn’t you? It’s exciting – from the women’s barrel racing to saddle broncs to bull riding, the Grand Daddy of events. Eight seconds has never been so long or over so fast.
- And separate from the rodeo for me is Chuckwagon racing (aka The Chucks). It is bedlam on the track. By the time you have four wagons and outriders racing around during a heat it’s just crazy and I love it. The Chucks are broadcast every night, along with the day’s highlights.
- The midway. If you like rides and games, you can go all day. Consider the Stampede like a State Fair only times about a hundred.
- The Clothing. This is the one time of year that you look odd if you’re NOT wearing something western – and if it’s hot that might just translate into Daisy Dukes and a t-shirt if you can pull it off (I can’t). Boots are the order of the day and the rainbow of western shirts and jewelry are always great to see.
- And now, this is the part of the blog where Donna gets a little homesick. Every Stampede week, our church had Stampede Sunday. It was a day filled with old-time gospel music and food and we put together a Stampede Sunday band which included drums, piano, washtub bass, banjo and a few vocalists to lead the masses in a whole blue-grassy kind of worship. During my last summer in Calgary, I played piano and sang in the Stampede Sunday band. And when I get a little bit lonely, I pull out my binder of music and get my foot thumping.
So I guess it’s not much wonder that I love writing Westerns with a distinctive Canadian flavour. I think it’s beyond cool that Harlequin has always supported my Canadian settings and that readers have responded to them so favourably! Because while I wasn’t born in the west, I think there’s a part of me that will always belong there, and no matter where I am those books take me, for a while, back home.
With a big yeehaw,
Editor’s Note: Thanks for the great recommendations for Calgary Stampede newbies like me, Donna! Readers, to win a copy of Donna’s latest cowboy romance, A Family for the Rugged Rancher from Harlequin Romance, leave a comment on today’s blog post. You have until 11:59 p.m. EST today, July 12, 2011. Only U.S. and Canada residents may be eligible to win, unfortunately. Those who comment today are also eligible to win a grand prize of all five copies of our featured authors’ books!