The 100th Calgary Stampede opened today with the annual parade and the pleas of one high-profile animal rights activist to shut down the rodeo at the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”
About one million people will walk through the turnstiles of the 10-day event – equal parts carnival, state fair, festival and rodeo.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper always returns to his hometown for the event.
“The Calgary Stampede has become a real Canadian icon,” he said, according to the Calgary Sun. “It’s one of the things that’s known about this country — about Canada — the world over. It’s something that has preserved our values ... the things upon which this city has been built.”
For animal activists, however, it’s nothing more than cruel and unusual punishment for the horses, cows and sheep at the center of the rodeo.
In 2010, six horses died in rodeo events.
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Bob Barker, the legendary former host of The Price is Right, suggested 100 years of bull riding, chuck-wagon races and calf roping is enough.
“I would like very much to see them celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede by saying that is enough animal cruelty,” Barker told The Canadian Press. “Let’s wind it up and close it down.”
With $2 million in prize money for the cowboys and cowgirls who compete, that’s unlikely anytime soon.
The Stampede is the world’s most prestigious rodeo, and annual protests outside the gates have done little to dent its popularity.
Organizers invite just 20 competitors for each event.
“It can make or break your year for you,” bull-rider Tanner Girletz told CBC. “It’s tough to qualify, but when you do, it feels pretty good.”
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