Stampede offers many ways to test your belly, from the bizarre midway food concoctions to the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission loosening rules so bars can pour you a shot shortly after sunrise. And then there are the rides.
The rides that tour the parking lots and fairgrounds of North America are designed to take you to the edge of vomit-inducing motion sickness.
- LISTEN | Stampede midway "ride-off"
Like many people, I abandoned the midway in my mid-teens and haven't jumped on a ride since. But — never one to shy away from a bit of adventure — I thought it was high time to challenge a Calgary Eyeopener listener to a "ride-off !" It was a chance to see which of us could last the longest on one of the Stampede's new rides, a whirling, spinning beast called Remix.
'You puke on it, you clean it.' - Ride attendant
Mosi Taylor-Cole stepped up to the plate. Although he was born in Toronto, Mosi came to Calgary as a young child so his formative years were spent whipping around the midway. A recent law-school graduate, Mosi thought his upbringing would give him the edge while I thought a childhood rolling around in my dad's fishing boat on the Pacific Ocean was the secret. The scene was set.
We met just as the Stampede grounds were opening up for the day. As we walked through the midway, Mosi was in a confident mood.
"Well, I don't have a weak stomach and I love rides," he said, "so I'm hoping those two will work in my favour."
The wager? A beaver tail — the fried doughnut-like flat bread.
Breakfast the deciding factor?
A posse of carnies were waiting for us at the ride. They seemed giddy to see just how long we could last on one of their prized contraptions.
Amy Girton, corporate communications director for North American Midway Entertainment, tours with the rides across North America.
"I think you guys won't last longer than ten minutes," said Girton before asking, "which one of you ate breakfast and which one did not? This could be a deciding factor."
Perhaps this was a crucial mistake. Mosi had foregone breakfast altogether while I'd enjoyed a mixture of lime yoghurt, banana and granola. Amy's money was on Mosi.
With that, we were strapped into the ride and the attendant mumbled, "You puke on it, you clean it."
The next thirteen minutes were a blur of sunlight, midway rides and a strategically placed bucket right next to the gate. My feet tingled from the blood pooling in my legs. My inner ear struggled to keep track of which way was up. My breakfast began to curdle. We would slow down enough every two minutes for the staff to ask, "Keep going?!"
Mosi had the edge. I was taken to the brink and tapped out. Knock-kneed, we stumbled back to a nearby park bench to regroup where Mosi admitted, "To be honest, I thought I was going to barf. So I'm excited. I'm really glad it turned out this way."
And while I may have lost the bet, it was a combined victory for Mosi and me when Amy Girton conceded, "I do not know anyone to last that long. You guys could go in our North American Midway World Record System".
Honestly, as much as I'd like it to exist, I don't think there is a North American Midway World Record System. But it was a bit of comfort on an otherwise gut-wrenching day. Mosi, meanwhile, enjoyed the fruits of victory — a beaver tail. — which I discovered is actually called an elephant ear at Stampede and costs $7.
You can reach Paul Karchut on twitter. His handle is @cbcoutside