We Went to a Calgary Stampede-­Themed Vogue Party

No horses were murdered at this event, and everyone still had a good time.

Jul 13 2015, 8:32pm

Depending on your point of view, the Calgary Stampede is either an apocalyptic, cowboy-themed hellscape or the time of year that Calgarians leave town for a vacation elsewhere. Sure, there's plenty of fun to be had if you like country music, gambling, and deep-fried trash food (and let's be honest, everyone loves those things). But it's also a time when normies run free through downtown, losing their phones, losing their friend Britney, and losing their Stampede breakfast as they barf at bus stops, desperately praying for a cab to bring them back to their stucco paradise in McKenzie Towne.

This year's Calgary Stampede was all about threes. Three horses were murdered, two because they suffered broken legs during the chuckwagon race (thereby disappearing in a special magic trick where the horse's body is covered by a tent, a loud pop noise is heard, and the horse's body leaves with the tent). Security locked down the midway after a man decided to stab three different people (though paying $18 for a BBQ turkey leg had us feeling a little stabby, too). And, of course, there was a public threesome seen around the world (i.e. Reddit). How do we sign up for the horse death tent?

It's futile to expect any sort of non-­Stampede-themed entertainment during the ten long days that your mom wears her straw Corona cowboy hat to work. Truly, you can't beat 'em, so you must join 'em. That means most bars throw up some hay bales and let the profits roll in. This year, however, Calgary was treated to a true alt-Stampede event with the Western Realness Vogue Ball, an audacious, bodacious countrified voguing contest that brought some garish southern kitsch to Calgary's best new secret, Good Luck Bar.

#CUNTY Queen, indeed. Photos by Josiah Hughes

Good Luck Bar is already an anomaly in a city dominated by arrogant craft beer lists, fancy-schmancy dinner menus, rustically "authentic" decor, and one of those generic X-marks-the-spot logos with swaggy typography. Instead of all those things, Good Luck Bar is refreshingly mediocre. Hidden away up some stairs between regular chongo hangouts, it's almost impossible to spot. Once you're in there, you're greeted with nothing on tap, cheap beer cans, and a handful of shitty cocktails. The walls are painted black, the chairs are mismatched, and you never know if it'll be completely empty or packed with every one of your friends. Calgary has a serious deficit of dive bars, so some young entrepreneurs opted to make their own.

Of course, its nondescript design means Good Luck Bar can be anything, and it's already been everything. In its few months of existence, the hole-­in-­the-­wall has hosted regular karaoke nights, touring hardcore bands, and even a fancy photography opening. On July 11, the second last night of Stampede, it was also a hot voguing spot.

For the uneducated, voguing is an incredibly entertaining hybrid of dance and fashion runway popularized in the 1980s. Its fabulous, flamboyant demands a specific sort of sassiness including flamboyant hand gestures and intense, blue steel stares. The artform was popularized in African-American, Latino and gay communities, thus making it a shoo in for openness and inclusivity. In other words, it's the direct antithesis of Calgary, a machismo-drenched city where you'll have no trouble finding a bumper sticker that reads "Eat cow. Drill oil. Rope calves. Welcome to Alberta."

I may never forgive the missed opportunity to call this event the Calgary Glampede, but the Western Realness Vogue Ball certainly brought some much ­needed fabulousness to Calgary's incorrigibly basic nightlife on Saturday night. Sure, there were more spectators than participants, but the participants brought out a seriously impressive rodeo of voguing, complete with batshit takes on iconic western wear.

The Western Realness Vogue Ball was hosted by Tony Tran and his Bad Girls Club, and its tagline was "Putting the cunty back in country." (Still not as good as the Calgary Glampede, guys, but it'll do.)

Tran hyped the crowd up through three rounds of energetic voguing. The soundtrack included club-­ready edits of Shania Twain (who collected a hefty cheque by performing for a bunch of oil executives in a field somewhere one night prior) as a collection of impeccably dressed young men and women strutted their stuff. Tran proved an endearing and whip­-smart host, as apt to chastise rulebreakers as he was to chant "Pussy! Pussy! Pussy! Cunt! Cunt! Cunt!" on the mic.

Western Realness was divided into three categories: Hayseed Realness (which emphasized country bumpkins), Rhinestone Cowboy (all bedazzled everything) and Country Queen (the self-­explanatory western diva category). That resulted in an endlessly entertaining evening of high ­octane dance moves and a handful of seriously inspired outfits.

A collection of people looking to turn up and get loose, the Western Realness Vogue Ball was a microcosm of the Stampede at large. As such, it provided some much ­needed context. After all, it's hot as hell and everyone's just looking for a good time. Plus, we didn't even have to murder any horses. Hopefully I'll see everyone next year at the second Western Realness ball (rebranded as the Calgary Glampede).

Follow Josiah Hughes on Twitter.

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