Friends, fun and food at Lethbridge’s Whoop-Up Days
By Kenton DeJong
Lethbridge, AB – With autumn lingering on the horizon, Whoop-Up Days in Lethbridge is the perfect way to end the summer.
I attended the fair for the first time with my friends, Tony and Amy. We arrived at the fairgrounds in the afternoon, so we went on some rides, attended a magic show and visited a couple food trucks. It was too early for the real fun to begin, but we knew it would happen soon enough.
With fresh lemonade in hand, Tony, Amy and I walked the fairways of Exhibition Park. Whoop-Up Days started back in 1897, so I was excited to be taking part in this century-plus old event. Tony and Amy had gone before, but this was my first time. Annually, this event attracts about 13,000 people and over $2.5 million worth of venue according to the Lethbridge Herald. Not only does it celebrate the end of summer, but it also highlights the culinary scene and entrepreneurship that Lethbridge is known for.
On our way to the rodeo, we came across a somewhat unique food truck. The truck sold two primary dishes: grilled cheese sandwiches and poutines. To add a little excitement to the dish, the food truck also had the option of adding in a scoop of fried crickets for two dollars. After little discussion, Tony and I decided to pitch in together to try the cricket poutine. Amy opted out… but ended up trying a bite anyway.
I didn’t think the cricket poutine was that bad. Tony thought it was a tad “crunchy,” but after one forkful, Amy “wasn’t havening any of it.” My only complaint about the dish was that the cricket legs would occasionally get caught in my teeth.
Our VIP seating gave us access to the horses before the show and it was nice to visit with them. I’ve been around horses before, but the ones in Lethbridge were colossal. One had no problem leaning its head over the fence around it, which was over six feet high. Both Tony and Amy commented on its size and we all agreed it was one of the largest we have ever seen!
While all the riders at the rodeo were incredible, the ones I found the most impressive were the child riders. At one point a young girl, no more than six years old, came out standing on the backs of two small ponies. She led the animals through a simple obstacle course and a burning ring of fire! As somebody who never mastered a bicycle, this was astonishing to see.
One thing I found fascinating about the rodeo was the lineage many of the riders have in that industry. Local riders and their families are legendary in the community, and the crowd made that known any time they stepped into the ring. Some of the families go back to the late 1800s, being a staple in the community and a testament to the importance of riders and horses in Cowboy Country.
The fair had renewed energy once the rodeo ended and the sun set. Games, rides and food trucks were lit up and the crowd came alive. The air was filled with screams of joy and laughter, the ringing of prizes and bells, and the drifting smells of deep-fried food and popcorn.
We passed through the fair and dropped by the live entertainment. Helix was the opening act, with Lee Aaron as the main performance. These two Canadian rock legends put on an incredible show, with the crowd being a mix of young and old singers, something I was pleasantly surprised to see. Some people say rock is dead, but the show in Lethbridge showed it was alive and well.
As the night went on, we drifted away from the live music and back to the food. Then it was ride time. We went on the Ferris wheel, the merry-go-round, and the spinning chairs, along with a half dozen other rides. My personal favourite ride was the long-standing Zipper, which I was happy to see after a year long hiatus.
Amy, Tony and I were all too tired to wait until the fireworks, so we decided to pack it in early and said goodnight near the end of the night.
For my first time at Whoop-Up Days I had an awesome time. It was a night full of friends, food and fantastic memories. All in all, it was the perfect way cap off an Alberta summer.
When You Go
For more information, go to www.tourismlethbridge.com .