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Winners are crowned as Stevie Wonder helps bring the 103rd annual Calgary Stampede to a close

Following 10 days of carnival fun, rodeo action, live music, agriculture and a tonne of entertainment, the 103rd annual Calgary Stampede came to an end today in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, crowning their winning riders with huge pay checks and seeing legendary artist Stevie Wonder close out the event with a special performance in the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Over the course of the 11 day event, daily and nightly events saw some of North America's finest bull, bareback and Chuckwagon riders go head to head, leading to a weekend dedicated to crowning the champions. Saturday saw the bottom half fight for the remaining wildcard spots... and on Sunday those finalists battled it out for the championship, the winners taking home as much as $100,000 in the highly competitive event. Sage Kimzey did just that in the Bull Riding category, taking home the huge cash prize, while Zeke Thurston won the Saddle Bronc and Clint Laye took home the Calgary Stampede bareback title. You can find all of the winners HERE.

But rodeo participants weren't the only ones to walk away with awards. The midway was packed with Stampede guests keen to taste the newest foods alongside festival staples, and the Stampede was there to make sure the finest new additions were recognised. BBQ, Poutine, Turkey Legs, Pizza, Corn Dogs and more were easy to find, but guests who took the time to explore would find new, special additions to the event. The much talked about $100 hot dog sold out early in the week, with only 100 prepared for the event. Meanwhile, dishes like the Cactus Burger and the Red Velvet Chicken Strips ensured there was something to cater to even the most adventurous of tastebuds. Unfortunately for some, the must talked about Cockroach Pizza never ended up making it on site. And events like the pancake breakfast held traditions of the event strong. The "kabob" - a peanut butter jelly sandwich, deep fried and served on a stick with deep fried reese's peanut butter cups and a pile of whipped cream, served by Peanut Butter Cupboard, won the festival's "best food on a stick" award.


Other food highlights included the Dulce Mini-Donut Pops from Family Squeezed Lemonade & Ice Cream and the Empanada Chaat from the Naaco Truck, both of which tied for the title of "Best New Food on the Midway 2015".

Though Stevie Wonder had the honour of closing the event, the rest of the 10 day event saw huge names from the world of country music headline the Saddledome, including Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean. Earlier in the week, Miranda Lambert had to pull out from her ticketed event due to illness.

Outside the headliners, and the country artists who graced the hugely popular Nashville North venue, the Coca Cola stage gave the public a chance to witness some of the finest up and coming bands from across Canada and around the world. Popular rock group Arkells (pictured) and Magic! closed out the last two nights of the festival, while the rest of the week saw the likes of Lights, Francesco Yates, OK GO, July Talk and Australia's own Vance Joy dominate the stage. Other performances were scattered around the festival, with street performers, acoustic artists in bars and more.

Though it was the nightly TransAlta Grandstand Show that everyone was talking about. The theme of the show was "Canadian Classic", and the massive production was performed nightly after the end of the Rodeo, ending with a huge fireworks display that would even impress Sydney NYE organisers. The show traversed the history of pop culture in Canada, from Acrodunk displaying their acrobatic basketball skills, to the young performers showing off the sounds of everyone from Anne Murray to Justin Bieber. A display of the "Northern Lights" took performers into the sky, and everything from cirque to ballet was on display in the annual spectacular, showcasing the best of Calgary and of Canada.

The Calgary Stampede may be over for this year, but to find out more about the winners, about the event and to start looking ahead to 2016, head along to http://www.calgarystampede.com/

The writer attended the festival as a guest of the Stampede with the support of Travel Alberta and Tourism Calgary. All photos by the author.