Alberta’s confirmation that its restrictions on gatherings include all annual summer events has led organizers of the Calgary Stampede to cancel the event for the first time in 97 years.
“As a community celebration, the cancellation of our annual event comes with our community and public health and safety front of mind,” Stampede president Dana Peers said on a conference call Thursday with reporters.
The provincial health department on Thursday confirmed the gathering restrictions it has in place due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will also apply to the province’s various summer festivals, agricultural fairs, rodeos, sporting championships and industry conferences.
The Calgary Folk Music Festival, which had also been scheduled for July this year, announced its cancellation Thursday just shortly before the Stampede’s conference call.
The province’s current orders prohibit gatherings of 15 or more people, require two-metre social distancing at gatherings of fewer than 15 and “will continue to apply until evidence demonstrates that the spread is controlled.”
By clarifying those restrictions now, the province said, event organizers “will be able to provide advance notice of 60 days or more that may help them limit unrecoverable expenditures, and cancel contracts in a timely manner.”
The Stampede had been scheduled for July 3-12 this year. The annual event, which dates back to 1912, is billed as a celebration of “the people, the animals, the land, the traditions and the values that make up the unique spirit of the West.”
A showcase and networking event for the province’s farming and livestock sectors, the Stampede’s attractions typically include “world-class” agricultural competitions and displays and the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, which combined involve over 7,500 animals, including cattle, horses, swine, donkeys and sheep.
The event, and others held in any other given year at its host site Stampede Park, are estimated to contribute about $700 million annually to the Canadian economy, including about $540 million to Alberta’s economy alone, Peers said.
Asked whether the Stampede — which previously has survived calamities such as the city’s June 2013 flood — has any insurance coverage that might help it recover some of the costs of such a cancellation, he replied it does not.
The not-for-profit Stampede organization’s focus will now shift to fall, winter and spring events at Stampede Park, and to planning for the 2021 Stampede, scheduled for July 9-18 that year, he said.
“To stand here and say there’ll be no Stampede for the first time in 97 years, that’s very, very, very tough,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said on Thursday’s call, adding the city government stands “in full support” of the Stampede’s decision.
“For the last five weeks it has felt to many of us like more and more and more things are getting taken away — and you know what, it is OK to feel sad and angry and frustrated about some of these things,” he said.
He described the situation as “a test of our collective resolve,” and said that eventually, “the rodeo will come back, the rides will come back, the music will come back and what will never, ever go away is our community spirit.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network