By Tim Kalinowski
Camera bag. Check. Media pass. Check. Cowboy hat. Check. Cowboy boots. Check. (On second thought the boots are a little too tight. I can’t feel my toes. They seem to be turning a peculiar shade of purple. Uncheck.) With all of these items gathered, I am ready to head off to the Stampede. I am ready to enjoy some rodeo action. I am ready to brave the crowds for a chance at some of the midway rides. And I am ready to test my gut against the worst, (or the best, depending on how you look at it), the Stampede grounds concessionaires can throw at it. And I am not alone. Thousands of people have miraculously shown up at the same time as me. (Or maybe not so miraculously; after all the Stampede has been advertised for months.) But my point is, there are lots of us here, and we all seem to be having a real hoot. I am not the only one wearing a cowboy hat. I may not look the most cowboyish in mine, but at least I am wearing one (Pointing at you Coun. Dustin Vossler, five rows up and to the left of this hard working reporter at the Grandstand). Out on the midway I have choices to make. Poutine? Curly fries poutine? Pizza slice? Taco in a bag? (I take this decision seriously, weighing the pros and cons of cheese curds melted in gravy versus baked on cheese on bread crust versus shredded cheese mixed with taco meat.) My arteries cry out against the impending assault, but I am not feeling merciful this evening. When you go to the fair you are supposed to eat unhealthy. It’s tradition. And I am all about tradition! What’s next? The rides? The “Fire Ball” catches my eye as a possibility, briefly, but then I remember I have the worst stomach for rides ever. (Seriously, I once threw up on a kiddy rollercoaster traveling slower than my grandmother can run.) I opt bravely instead for the kids spinny ridey thing. Afterward, fighting down my nausea, I head on over to watch the stunt divers. They got this guy who is willing to jump from 100 feet up in the air into a ten foot deep swimming pool. Looking at his face through a telephoto lens, you can see his nervousness as he takes off for his swan dive/ back flip. Now that’s a tough way to make a living. Then I remember watching the rodeo cowboy who got bucked off in the bareback ride and landed flat on his back with no chance to brace himself for impact. Ouch. You know, this reporter gig ain’t so bad.