By: Heather Ilsley

This year most people are watching their pennies a little more than usual.  I decided to see if I could still enjoy Stampede but stick to a budget of $25 while doing it.

Sounds ambitious doesn’t it?  Well, there are a few tips and tricks that’ll make your Stampede experience a little more wallet friendly.  I rounded up two partners in crime for this challenge as they wanted to save money at Stampede too!  We agreed to a couple of ground rules.  We’d bring water bottles with us and would try to see new things instead of doing the same things we do every year.

Our first stop was a pancake breakfast. We used the Flapjack Finder app for our iPhone and navigated our way there in no time!  Heading to the grounds on a full stomach was a good idea as we had lots of energy and weren’t as tempted by those darn mini donuts.

Total cost – $11 each (We checked out the deals on the Stampede website and saved $3 each on gate admission.)

It was drizzling when we arrived so we decided to start out at the Stampede Market.  I just love seeing all the interesting things that vendors have to offer.  We tested out massaging chairs, extra sharp knives, and we even had a few samples of some of the tasty treats on offer.  I almost got suckered into a new belt buckle, but decided to come back if I managed to stay under budget.

Total cost – FREE

Midway Circus:

Pig Racing!

The rain had stopped so we headed over to a new attraction this year – Celebrity Pig Racing.

Photo from the Calgary Stampede on Flickr

I wish I could tell you that this involved celebrities riding around on pigs, but it turns out the celebrities have been “training” their pigs.  Picture a bunch of pigs that have been ‘trained’ to race around a course.  Some pigs are pretty motivated, others want to do what pigs do best – laze around!  We decided to pick the winners and whoever lost the most races was buying the mini donuts!  It turns out that I’m only moderately good at pig gambling.  My pigs were in the middle of the pack, but that meant that I didn’t have to pay for the donuts!

Total cost – FREE (We decided to share a bag of mini donuts which was more waist and wallet friendly – $5)

Next up was the Flying Fools High Dive. The best way to describe these guys is crazy!  It was such a great show; we couldn’t believe it was free!  I have a pretty serious fear of heights, but these Fools don’t at all.  They launched themselves into a teeny pool from a platform as high as 90 feet.  Even though we didn’t do anything remotely hard, we felt that we deserved a treat for watching.  We each agreed to bring something fun to eat and share and we couldn’t spend more than $2 on it. Our midway picnic included five cent candies, chips, and some homemade chocolate chip cookies – YUM!

People Watching:
The three of us are aspiring photographers and we regularly get together for photo walks.  We spent the next hour or so wandering around the grounds looking for interesting shots.  This was one of the highlights of the day as the people-watching at Stampede is one of the best parts.  If you actually stop and watch the crowd for even 10 or 15 minutes, you’ll get a peek into the lives of so many different people.

Finally, we knew it was time to break the bank a little, we needed a drink!  We felt good about how well we’d done budget wise so we headed to the Western Oasis for some wine tasting! This year they have wine tastings in the Oasis every day from 4-8pm. We decided to do our own tasting by buying full glasses and sharing amongst ourselves.

Western Oasis - Wine Bar

After we finished the wine we wandered around the Western Showcase to check out the photography exhibit. Normally I’d pay a $10 or so to go to a gallery or museum and see this type of stuff, but it’s included with your gate admission – WIN!

Total cost – $8 each (wine)

So, how did we do?  Well, the pig gambling donut purchase skewed the cost of one person’s contribution, but we averaged out at $22.66 each.  We saw lots of cool new things, sampled our tasty Stampede favorites, and have some great photos that we couldn’t have taken anywhere else.  And, we were able to chill out and enjoy a nice glass of wine!

It was a pretty good deal for about 8 hours of fun; we definitely think a photo scavenger hunt with teams would be another cool way to explore what the Stampede has to offer.