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I have been taking my children to the Calgary Stampede for more than 15 years.
During that time I have learned a multitude of tips and tricks for everything from how to save on admission to where to find a quiet place to enjoy lunch.
After coming across a link online highlighting some of the ways to save financially I thought I would elaborate on it so that you might enjoy and benefit from some of the many ways my family saves and makes memories each year at the Calgary Stampede.

Let’s face it when it comes to the Calgary Stampede it’s easy to spend a lot and to over spend regardless of the number of children you have.
As a mother of 4 on a budget I had no choice but to get creative in order to ensure our family could take in the Stampede experience and on a level that was Stampede worthy.
This Blog post shares a multitude of tips and tricks that I have learned over the years. I hope you enjoy and share them Pardner 😉

Parking:
This tip is not so much a money saver but a sanity saver. PARK OFF THE GROUNDS AND WALK!
There are many independent businesses giving up valuable parking space to Park goers at this time of year. Take advantage of this because exiting the grounds can be a challenge at times and the cost of parking off site is comparable in price. In addition local businesses could use your support after the devastation they suffered financially last year after the the floods of 2013 wreaked havoc on many downtown merchants. There are ways to save on parking but I have never sought them out because I personally feel my sanity especially after a long day on the grounds with the kids is worth it. Heading down to the grounds early and leaving early is the best way to avoid unwanted stress parking or returning home in heavy vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Public Transit:
Public Transit is a great way to get down to the Park especially if you are going on Parade Day! Buses and trains will take you exactly where you want to go and this mode of transportation is easy on your wallet and generally stress free if planned in advance.
You can always drive to the closest station, park and then hop on transit and head into the downtown core from there.
If you have little ones I suggest taking a stroller or wagon. This way they can take a break from walking when they are tired or when you are in busier areas of the Park and you can use it to store items. You should note that a wagon is easier to get on and off a train than it would be a bus. Be sure the dimensions of whatever you plan to take can fit and are permitted on board.
We preferred to take a wagon when  the kids were younger but even now if we plan on playing games (which we always do) we take a cart. I purchased a cheap cart years ago on my way to the grounds at Canadian Tire and we have used it ever since. You can see it to the left of my son in the picnic picture below to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
I have included a link below regarding tips and tricks for Parade Day travel shared by Calgary Transit.
http://www.calgarytransit.com/stampede/parade_tips.html

Admission and the Midway:
There are a number of ways to save or to earn FREE admission onto the  Park Grounds and Midway.
1. Get your hands on a copy of the Stampede HOW-TO GUIDE and review it for dates and times where the Stampede itself offers free admission.
For example in KIDS DAY there is free admission for children 12 years and under when accompanied by an adult. I do not personally recommend going on Kids Day but I will get into that more later.
2. You can also get FREE admission by purchasing tickets for the Stampede Home Lottery. Not only will you receive free admissions to the grounds the money goes to a great cause and you have a chance at winning some amazing prizes.
3. Purchase specially marked coca-cola cases of coke and clip the coupon to save $8.00 or to receive 1 FREE child admission. Be sure to get to your local supplier well before the Stampede begins in order to get your hands on these specially marked products.
4. Save over 30% on admission by taking advantage of the “2 FOR $25” admission deal available at Mac’s Convenience Stores. This deal entitles you to 2 Park admissions and any TWO 591 ml Coca-Cola products.
Again take advantage of this deal well in advance as they sell out fast.
5. You can also purchase what are called “STAMPEDE BUCKS” at Costco. This year get $50 Stampede Bucks for $39.99! Redeem Stampede Bucks anywhere on Park; Admission, Rodeo and Evening Show tickets, rides and games, food and beverage, parking and retail shopping.
6. Finally and what I consider one of the most important ways to save is to purchase your Midway wristband or tickets in advance at Safeway. This will save you over 25% equivalent to up to $20.00 in savings.
While the wristband option is exclusive to rides if you purchase tickets you can use them toward games and Midway rides.
I suggest purchasing at least one ticket option in addition to wristbands if you go the wristband route. FYI for young children I find the ticket package to be more than enough Plus with tickets anyone in the family can use them which is nice considering children often need or want an adult to accompany them on rides. Unfortunately adults are not free so I strongly advise on purchasing some tickets to help you cover all bases. Even if you don’t use all your Costco bucks or tickets you will easily be able to find a buyer for your remaining discounted tickets or Stampede Bucks or you can give them away if you are feeling generous 😉
Click the image below for more information on the Calgary Stampede and ways you can save!

STAMPEDE COUP LINK

Food and Beverage:
This side of Stampede can run you a pretty penny in a hurry. Still my feeling is that it is important to take in that side of the Stampede in order to take in the entire experience as well as to support the vendors there.
My children always preferred games over food so we decided that we would bring our own lunch (which is permitted) and purchase a treat or two to enjoy as we make our way off the grounds.
I typically pack the same lunch every year as it has become somewhat of a tradition but you can pack whatever you like. We tend to take fresh healthier foods along with some treats. Fresh deli bun style sandwiches, fruit, granola bars, chips, treats and of course our Coca-Cola products we purchased in advance to save on admission are what we fill our cooler with. Don’t forget water and lot’s of it because water is quite expensive on the grounds.
When we are ready to eat we set up a picnic style lunch at the same special spot every year. As you approach the kids midway you will pass by the steps to the Saddledome. It is there that we climb the hill and take a seat for lunch. It is relatively quiet there is shade if you need it and often entertainment to take in from on high including marching bands, comedians and magic shows. We even watched a gent get shot out of a cannon one year.

Sitting outside the Saddledome breaking for lunch.

Sitting outside the Saddledome breaking for lunch.

stampede lunch 1

Attire:
No Stampede experience is complete without some form of western attire. Go all out or simply don a pair of jeans and a t shirt.
Anyone who knows me knows I go all out at least where my kids are concerned but my favourite costumes to date are the Rodeo Clowns we did one year.
As a former face painter I was able to do this easily for my kids but you can too. Just keep the outfits and face paint simple and you are set. Kids are easy to please and will love whatever you do. You can purchase the same brand of face paints I used here at and Michael’s Arts and Craft Store. The brand name is snazaroo. Click the link below to go to my business pinterest page for loads of fun tips on face painting, glitter tattoos, birthday parties and more!

Activities off the Midway:
There are far too many activities to list but I wanted to share two of our favourites.
We always, always ALWAYS make a point of going to BUCKAROOS! BUCKAROOS is located in the BMO Centre and is a great opportunity to cool off indoors yet still enjoy some quality fun.
There is a play structure, inflatables and plasma cars. There are also various fun activities including button making and speed stacking PLUS the kids can get their faces painted all at no additional charge. There are even fun little shows to take in while you are taking a break from the midway.
SUPERDOGS is also a must see if you can fit it in! The kids will love to cheer on these canine superstars as they run through obstacles and race against each other to with the informal title of top dog!
You can find more information on BUCKAROOS and SUPERDOGS in the Stampede HOW-TO GUIDE which is mailed out locally in June. It is also handed out on the grounds but it’s nice to plan in advance. You can also visit the link shared above under “Admission and the Midway” for more information to assist you in planning the best Stampede experience possible.

Best day to go:
Many people including myself get sucked into going on KIDS DAY. While it sounds appealing it is always one of the busiest days on the grounds especially on the kids Midway.
Years ago I discovered completely by accident the best day to go at least for us.
We took in the parade for the first time about 5 years ago. As we were going to be downtown already I decided to kill two birds with one stone and hit the grounds right after the parade was over. It turned out to be a great decision. After the parade most people and families just want to go home because of this the grounds are relatively quite. Kids need not wait in lines for rides and there are no crowds to haul your wagon/cart through.
As an added bonus the kids tucker out faster getting you home sooner to enjoy that well deserved cold beer or glass of wine 😉

I hope you have enjoyed reading my tips and tricks for enjoying the Calgary Stampede.
From my family to yours have a wonderful time enjoying the greatest outdoor show on earth!

 

 

 

I remember baking my first character cake more than 12 years ago.

I knew before I had children that I would bake and decorate their birthday cakes, after all that’s what I grew up on and it was a tradition I wanted to pass on to my own children.
I also LOVE creating things with my hands and let’s face it I’m now 4 children in so baking and decorating cakes is sometimes the only creative free time I get 🙂

I remember marveling at the Pokemon cake I created 12 years ago for my sons 7th birthday. I cringe a little now when I look back at pictures but all in all it was pretty darn good for my first attempt at a character cake pan.
Still through multiple birthdays with 4 kids and my own business I have learned a multitude of tips and tricks which I would like to share with you to save you time, sanity and tears.

1. PREPARE YOUR OWN ICING!
Store bought “works” however it’s runny and shiny and in the end you’ll be far happier if you spend the time whipping up a batch of your own icing and getting the desired consistency to form those perfect little stars. Most “Wilton” character cake pans come with an image insert with instructions and a butter cream icing recipe, if not you can always Google it.
BONUS TIP: Icing sales coming soon to STIR CRAZY!

2. COLOR YOUR ICING AND PREPARE YOUR BAGS AHEAD OF TIME!
This is especially important for deep colors like red and black. The longer they sit the darker they turn, then when activated with the heat of your hand…presto the deep dark color you desire. The other upside to this is once you’ve baked and cooled your cake you can simply sit down when ready in a clean organized environment and get right down to the real fun of icing your cake.
BONUS TIP: If you have a small area requiring 1 color buy the “ready to use” Wilton tube instead of manually coloring and bagging it. Wilton has great color options and you can even attach Wilton tips and couplers to them. This is such a time saver especially for a cake like Dora where there are a number of small one color areas.

3. PREPARE YOUR PAN FOR BAKING!
It is very important that you prepare your pan correctly to ensure your cake does not stick to the pan. Unlike a sheet cake you can’t simply repair a missing chunk with extra icing. It is very important the cake comes out pristine with every line and feature visible. Not being able to see these details is like trying to color with no lines present. I used to do the shortening and flour method however NO MORE! Now all I use is CAKE RELEASE. You can pick up an aerosol can of Wilton Cake release at Micheals for around $5.00. Trust me this is the one product you must invest in, you’ll never bake without it again. It also comes in a rub on but I prefer the spray.
Once your cake is baked allow it to cool in the pan for 5 – 10 minutes and then flip directly onto a cake board, position, cover with foil and freeze.
BONUS TIP: Place the cake onto the cake board while it is still slightly warm. This will help it adhere better to the board and prevent slipping during decorating.

4. COOL OR FREEZE YOUR CAKE!
I used to simply cool and decorate but no longer. Not only does freezing allow you to bake in advance and save on pan rental fees but decorating a frozen cake keeps your icing cool and the harder cake surface is simply easier to decorate than a spongy one.

5. BUY SOME CAKE BOARDS!
Not only will this enhance the look of your beautifully decorated cake but the nonstick surface is great for writing on and allows for easy removal when cutting the cake. You can cover these board with foil if you feel your icing may bleed a grease ring however I find if you refrigerate the cake as soon as it’s iced no bleeding will occur and I highly recommend doing this to protect your colors from bleeding together as well.
BONUS TIP #1: For added flare trace the shape of your cake pan onto the cake board, cut out and then place you cake onto the board and freeze until ready to decorate. You can even buy colored foil if you want to fancy it up even more.

6. INVEST IN A TURNTABLE!
A turntable will allow for easy angling of your cake helping you get into those hard to reach areas without throwing out your back plus you can use it to display you cake once decorated.

7. FOLLOW THE PAN INSTRUCTIONS!
Trust me I have decorated both ways and following the instructions in number sequence will really help to ensure your cake comes out looking like the character on the insert.
BONUS TIP: Instead of the timely process of flat icing the background which is almost always step #1 skip this step and instead when the cake is done use tip #21 (or larger) to do a neat twist on the shell border. The larger volume of icing usually fills in those small background areas and really makes your cake pop!
BONUS TIP: Be sure to do your outlining first when called for and don’t be afraid to use a slightly bigger tip like #3 instead of #1. I find outlines that are slightly larger show up better after the rest of the icing is applied.

8. USE THE RIGHT TIPS AND USE THE BAG AND COUPLER SYSTEM WHENEVER POSSIBLE!
The right tips are a must especially for the finer details. Use the bag and coupler system as well. This allows you to make one bag for each color and switch the tips out as you need saving you loads of time.
BONUS TIP: I almost always use tip #18 instead of #16 when called for. I find #18’s almost always never plug up and because the star tip is slightly bigger than a #16…YOU SAVE TIME!!!

9. EMBELLISH YOUR BOARD NOT YOUR CAKE!
Want to write Happy Birthday…write it on the board not the cake. This not only looks better but you can also add other embellishments like stars, swirls and hearts.
BONUS TIP: Don’t cut down your board too much if you plan on needing room for a birthday message.

Well. I think that’s pretty much it. I will try to add to this as things come to mind.
The main lessons here are to plan ahead, use the right products and tools and have FUN!
Remember Stir Crazy rents more than 550 cake pans. We also have the Premier Rental Package which provides the tips, bags, couplers, pan, box and board. Icing sales and cake release will be added to an upgraded package soon.

One of the most common mistakes people make when planning a party is to select a date and send out invites before securing a venue or entertainment.

It’s much easier to find a venue and entertainment if you haven’t restricted yourself to a certain date and already invited guests making any date changes stressful and many times impossible.

I always suggest three things first.

1. Decide on a theme

2. Contact any entertainment and inquire as to availability around dates that you are interested in. Then discuss your venue chioces with the entertainment companies to ensure they will come to any of the area/venues you are going to contact. Now you have dates for entertainment and know that they will trave to your venue. Ask for a hold on tentative dates until you can secure your venue. If they can’t hold or have a limited hold time ask that they call you before giving the dates away. Now you can proceed to step 3.

3. Call your venues. Start with your first date choice and work your way out. In as little as one day you can have your theme, entertainment and venue booked. Always keep in mind no date will work for all invited guests so choose what works for you and in my experience guests will do all they can to attend your event if possible based on your date and choice of venue.

Of course I can’t finish without stressing the importance of planning ahead. Planning any event last minute can take the joy out of the cause for celebration. While many people thrive under pressure it’s always a good idea to allow alot of time for planning. Everything should be handled 1 week prior to your event and what isn’t physically handled (cake, flowers, setup) should atleast be planned out to be ready when it is time to get everything in place.

More to come so check back often and happy planning 🙂



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  • mel strinholm: fantastic tips! who knew to freeze a cake before decorating! and letting the color in the icing sit for awhile to let it darken is great to know as we