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Cowboys and cowgirls looking for love at the Calgary Stampede

It's referred to as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but at least one Alberta matchmaker says the Calgary Stampede is also the greatest singles event on the planet. Crowds attend the rodeo at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Sunday, July 6, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

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It's referred to as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but at least one Alberta matchmaker says the Calgary Stampede is also the greatest singles event on the planet. Crowds attend the rodeo at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Sunday, July 6, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY - It's referred to as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, but at least one Alberta matchmaker says the Calgary Stampede is also the greatest singles event on the planet.

"There isn't a better time to meet new people and prospective matches," says Edmonton-based Krystal Walter, who runs a website that specializes in setting people up.

"You can find a Stetson that fits without having to sift through dozens of online profiles. A few drinks can make it easier for people to act on those feelings."

The 10-day rodeo celebration encourages visitors to dress western, making it essentially a week-long cowboy costume party. But with live music blaring, booze flowing and a non-stop party atmosphere, inhibitions often get checked at the door.

Some of the outfits stray into the risque side of things, with the cowgirls wearing short skirts and halter tops and cowboys doffing their shirts and wearing little more than a pair of chaps.

There's even a Twitter hashtag, "Trampede," where people comment on some of the more egregious fashion faux pas.

Paul Vickers, the owner of Cowboys, one of Calgary's most popular watering holes, says this is the busiest time of year and there's no doubt that dressing up in western duds brings out the social side of people.

"When you put a cowboy hat on people, they do go through a personality change. They let their hair down and have way more fun, are way more approachable. Girls look cuter — as opposed to uptight in a business dress, and they're just more approachable," says Vickers.

"I think girls have always worn what's sexy at that time. I would never say they're tramps. I think they dress a little more risque and provocative maybe ... everybody's always pushing the boundaries and I think fashion trends dictate that."

Dr. Judy Macdonald, deputy medical officer of health for Alberta Health Services, says health officials don't typically see a spike in sexually transmitted infections following the Stampede, but they do use the event as an opportunity to encourage safe sex.

A campaign entitled "put a condom on your cowboy" has been around for a number of years.

"We still have that poster. It has been distributed to bars to have them put it up in their public washrooms," Macdonald says. "If people are going to engage in that kind of activity, they should always wear a condom and limit their number of partners."

Lineups at bars are inevitable and Macdonald says public health staff use that as an opportunity.

"We will be passing out condom packs and also some buttons similar to the poster," she says. "One of the messages we say is avoid impaired sex."

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

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