Consecutive days of dismal weather and a struggling provincial economy led to the Calgary Stampede’s worst attendance in 22 years.
The annual 10-day festival had a strong start, but attendance quickly dampened during the second half of the event period with rainfall and thunderstorms keeping attendees away. Prior to opening day, it was also widely expected that attendance growth would be limited due to Alberta’s struggling economy.
“Being an outdoor show, the weather was a huge variable for us,” Jennifer Booth, the Public Relations Manager for the Calgary Stampede, told Daily Hive. “We believe it impacted the numbers substantially, but it’s hard to tell exactly what it was – whether it was weather or the economy. But generally when we have rainy days, we see less people at the park.”
This year’s cumulative attendance reached 1,088,039, down from 2015’s figure of 1,168,509. Organizers implemented special $5 entry promotions on Thursday and second Friday – the days that saw the heaviest rain and coldest temperatures – between 5 pm and 7 pm to bring in people into Stampede Park during poor weather. And on the final day, on Sunday, free admission was offered at the gates during the morning hours, which attracted 65,000 people – bringing the day’s total attendance to 151,695.
“We do a number of different promotions every year, so the ones we did this year the $5 was a new one to us,” she said. “And those days with promotions typically see fairly high numbers.”
There were no programming cancellations or delays as a result of the weather, but it did affect how much time people wanted to spend at the park. However, rain, hail, and lightning on July 15 did force the Rotary Club of Calgary to cancel this year’s Oxford Stomp.
Smaller crowds at this year’s tourist-drawing Stampede could also mean a drop in economic activity; the Calgary Stampede usually generates over $340 million in economic spinoffs for the province, and with the economy in recession some local businesses were likely counting for that seasonal push.
But for organizers, considering the weather conditions the event experienced, they are still calling 2016’s million plus attendance a success.
Last year, Vancouver’s annual summertime Fair at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) took a similarly major hit when an enduring period of heavy rainfall and even a powerful windstorm ripped through the city. The 15-day event drew 769,242 people in 2014, but it dropped to 678,193 in 2015 – a 10-year attendance low – even with organizers implementing four days of free admission.
Day 1 – Friday (1)
Day 2 – Saturday (1):
Day 3 – Sunday (1):
Day 4 – Monday:
Day 5 – Tuesday:
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Day 7 – Thursday:
Day 8 – Friday (2):
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Day 10 – Sunday (2):