While Albertans are prepping for the province’s reopening and Calgarians gear up for this year’s Stampede, equestrians are chomping at the bit to see Spruce Meadows back in action.
Last month, Spruce Meadows announced that they would host a three-week series in September 2021. It was in lieu of the traditional summer series for which the venue is famous.
Ian Allison, the President and COO of Spruce Meadows, said the decision to postpone the summer series was made based on ongoing monitoring of the COVID-19 situation.
“We’ve had an understanding for quite some time about what the Canada-US border situation was going to be like. We took the bold step of looking at the International Sports calendar, and in an optimistic manner, believe that there might be some border restrictions lifted by August,” said Allison.
The hope is to have international level show jumping, including a Nations Cup competition, during the first three weeks of September. It would be in a ‘bubble’ environment for the safety of horses, riders, and staff.
This also gives Spruce Meadows a larger window of time to iron out the details. Allison said they must present their plan to both provincial and federal levels of government. Still, they’re only able to work within the restrictions that are currently in place.
“You can’t pretend that it’s all going to be unicorns and rainbows in the not too distant future. I think with vaccine rollouts, and the way Alberta is starting to phase its way back into a certain degree of normalcy, we’re cautiously optimistic,” said Allison.
No spectators for Spruce Meadows this fall
Allison said that regardless of the pandemic status in Alberta this fall, there will be no spectators allowed in September.
“The Spruce Meadows season in 2021 is going to be a pure sports season. We’ll sadly miss the people but we want to get back up and operating safely before we expand too far.
“Never say never. We’ll see how the Stampede goes and many other events, but I don’t think we’re an organization that wants to return to the state that you’re alluding to until we have 100 per cent certainty that it can be done properly,” said Allison.
2021 may influence future schedule
2021 promises a return to the ring for many equestrians. It will be with a different look, but it may also influence future seasons as well.
Allison said the September series could influence the future Spruce Meadows season.
“Often in the summer series we’ve been victims of what we affectionately call the June monsoon. We’re going to see how September looks, and maybe we start to extend that part of the season and move out of June and July,” he said.
“So I think we’re going to take the knowledge we glean from this exceptional chapter in history and see what’s best for all parties concerns; broadcasters, the athletes, sponsors, fans, everybody.”