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After being put on pause in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Calgary Stampede is making a comeback in 2021, but attendees will see a slightly different experience compared to previous years.
With this year’s Stampede less than four weeks away, organizers have begun to release further details about what the 2021 event is going to look like. Attendees will notice changes to ticketing, capacity, and the infamous Nashville North tent.
“The on-Park experience of Stampede will be different this year,” reads a media release from the Calgary Stampede, “and provide an atmosphere that is both safe and enjoyable.”
During a Monday morning press conference, officials shared information about the safety measures that guests could expect to see in place around Stampede Park, and changes to a few iconic experiences.
“We are here today to help get the facts straight,” said Steve McDonough, President & Chairman of the Board, Calgary Stampede.
McDonough acknowledged that there have been criticisms of the Stampede for being one of the first organizations to open its gates. He responded to this by saying that other parts of the world have demonstrated that the Stampede can begin opening its doors, as long as it’s done responsibly. “We recognize that we are leading the way in Canada with our event, and we do so following best practices, advice, and safety protocols,” said McDonough.
“We are proud of [our] hundred-year history,” said McDonough. “Now it’s very true that over the years we’ve been knocked down. In the past, [we’ve had] two world wars and economic woes, Great Depressions, and, of course, that devastating flood.”
“But each time we’ve faced adversity, we have gotten back up, dusted ourselves off, and put on the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”
McDonough said that they understand that, this year, it’s a different environment, and they respect that. “Stampede 2021 will look different from those of the past, and will reflect concerns about safety that we are all still coming to terms with,” he continued.
The Calgary Stampede continues to work closely with Alberta Health and additional health experts to assure the safety of guests, partners, volunteers, and employees at the annual July event. “We’re committed to meeting and exceeding Alberta Health guidelines,” said Dana Peers, Interim CEO, Calgary Stampede.
“In 2021, you can Stampede your way,” Peers added. “We understand that visitors may want to shape their experience. We encourage you to plan in advance, pre-purchase your admission, and find those experiences that you enjoy and fit your comfort level.”
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Rapid testing and masking requirements will be in place for the event’s frontline staff and volunteers, and the Stampede encourages guests to wear masks as well.
Attendees will notice sanitization stations and improved safety and cleaning protocols throughout the park, as well as shorter lines thanks to digital queuing systems.
Dr. Jia Hu, public health physician and advisor to the Calgary Stampede, noted that the Stampede is primarily an outdoor event, and said, “We know that outdoor transmission is exceedingly rare.”
“Secondly,” he added, “we are significantly reducing capacity.”
Admission tickets will be pre-purchased before visiting the Stampede grounds, and limitations on entry numbers and the number of people that can attend certain venues will also be in place.
The Stampede said that they expect this year’s attendance to be approximately 50% of what they have seen in previous years, especially as there will be no foreign visitors this year, which typically account for 10 to 15% of guests.
Officials said that they are considering requiring proof of vaccination and rapid testing at certain venues – particularly the popular live music and dance hotspot Nashville North.
This year, guests will see Nashville North as an open-air canopy instead of an enclosed tent, creating more of an outdoor experience. Digital queues will be in place to avoid the big lineup that the venue is often known for.
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The 10-day event is slated to run from July 9 to 18 in 2021, and the organization noted that all plans currently in place are tentative.
“Everything has been very much in flux and very fluid, and we continue to evolve, and we will continue to evolve up until the last day,” said Peers.