2021 Calgary Stampede will be different; safety a top priority

‘The Safest and Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth’

Shane O'Connell (Rapid City, SD) came up a bit short with a score of 83.5 to finish out of the money aboard Ross River on Wildcard Saturday at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo Saturday July 13, 2019. Sean Libin for LiveWire

The Calgary Stampede is happening this year, despite there being more cases than last year. The availability of the vaccine and determination for normalcy seems to be the primary reasons. 

In 2020, the Stampede was deemed too big of a risk on April 23. On that date, there were 3,720 confirmed cases within Alberta. 

On May 20, 2021, there are 8,684 active cases in Calgary alone. 

Last week, when Calgary Stampede announced they would hold the event from July 9 to 18, there were 24,962 active cases in Alberta. They said they would have the food, the fair, the animal and Indigenous displays – all done safely on the 200+ acres. What’s up in the air is the full midway, the rodeo or the grandstand show.

The one new element this year’s equation is the vaccine.

The numbers on the Alberta Vaccination Data were last updated on May 12, 2021. As of that date, 887,413 people within the Calgary Zone have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

At the beginning of May, LiveWire Calgary asked the Calgary Stampede about its advocacy for public health measures and vaccinations. If they wanted the Stampede, why not be more vocal?

“We continue to work closely with various levels of government, as well as health authorities, as we have from the beginning. We are extremely supportive of their efforts in regards to the safety of our community, but would leave decisions to them as the experts,” said Kristina Barnes, communications manager with the Calgary Stampede.

“Our focus is on creating the safest Stampede 2021, while ensuring our programming is both flexible and adaptable.” 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi on the Calgary Stampede

At a May 13 press conference, Mayor Naheed Nenshi commented on the plans for Calgary Stampede. He the Stampede board and staff have been working hard to figure out how the safest possible Stampede will commence.

“The challenge that we have is that July 9 is not May 13. It’s going to be very difficult for us to forecast forward, what the situation looks like,” he said.

Nenshi mentioned that last year there was a form of Stampede with fireworks and drive-thru pancake breakfast. He anticipated the 2021 Stampede will be somewhere between the multiple measures taken in the previous year and what ‘looks and feels’ like a traditional Stampede.

“… In order to do something that can give people a sense of celebration, can give people a sense of turning the page on the pandemic that ultimately has to be incredibly safe,” he said. 

“The real question is, what can we do that will still give people a flavour of the Stampede without packing them tightly into indoor spaces? That can be very problematic.”

Fireworks from last year’s Calgary Stampede. LIVEWIRE FILE PHOTO

Province: The quicker we get vaccines, the quicker we get normal lives

Tom McMillan, the Assistant Director for Communications with Alberta Health, said they look forward to seeing the Stampede resume as soon as it is safe to do so. While McMillan said he realizes that the current restrictions mean events such as the Stampede are not permitted, he knows the amount of organization the Stampede requires.

“It is natural that the Stampede’s organizers are continuing to plan for a time when they are allowed to open. This event is incredibly complex, and planning occurs a long time in advance,” he said.

He also mentioned the province will be updating Albertans about easing restrictions for the coming summer months when possible. 

“The quicker we can all bend the curve and get vaccinated, the sooner that life can safely start getting back to normal.” 

Stampede to be a safe environment

Mayor Nenshi points out that we are not sure where the infection curve will go. He said he believes individuals will be as safe as possible at the event to refrain from increasing case numbers.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who’s not worried about that,” he said. 

“There’s nobody, no matter how much they love the Stampede, who wants to create an unsafe environment, or a super spreader environment.”

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