August 23, 2016 6:13 pm

Soggy start to Whoop-Up Days 2016 not a damper on excitement

WATCH ABOVE: It wasn't gloomy enough to dampen the spirits of everyone involved with Tuesday morning's Whoop-Up Days parade, including Premier Rachel Notely. Erik Mikkelsen has the story from the parade route.

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It’s time to “whoop it up” with this year’s Whoop-Up Days Family Festival underway at Exhibition Park. The day kicked off with the annual parade through the streets of Lethbridge, with a special visit. For the first time in history, a sitting Alberta premier walked in the parade.

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“I’ve been part of Whoop-Up Days a few times, but it’s always great to come down and celebrate with the people of Lethbridge,” Premier Rachel Notley said. “I know it’s going to be a lot of fun here and people are going to have the chance to get together and enjoy the summer the only way Albertans can!”

“It’s just fun to be able to be here with them for a small part of it.”

With over 110 entries, Mayor Chris Spearman said this year’s parade wasn’t one to miss.

“It’s all about the excitement and having the young people out here and everybody out having a good time. It’s a party atmosphere!” Spearman said.

Horses, floats, marching bands and smiling faces helped to kick off the week-long party.

The parade was full of government officials happy to welcome everyone to the event.

“Today is a real good example of what people in southern Alberta are made of,” MLA Lethbridge East Maria Fitzpatrick said. “They’re out here despite the weather!”

“What we see here today is true Lethbridge spirit,” Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder said. “We see lots of smiles, lots of cheering, lots of families out and about and enjoying the parade.”

Provincial party leaders made the trip down to Lethbridge for the special occasion.

“It’s always beautiful down in southern Alberta,” Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said. “A little gloom, but let’s face it, we thought it was going to rain this morning but there hasn’t been a drop of rain in the entire parade. It’s been a lot of fun!”

“Whoop-Up Days even brings political parties together because this is a time to enjoy each others’ company, enjoy Alberta and enjoy the quality of life we share here,” Alberta PC Party Leader Ric McIver said. “It’s just fantastic!”

WATCH: Exhibition Park says it has added 20 new activities for Whoop-Up Days. As Kimberly Tam reports, a lot of southern Albertans plan their summer around this week, and officials say it’s gearing up to be a fantastic event.

The gates to the fair grounds opened to the public at 1 p.m. This year there are over 40 rides and a stacked lineup of free entertainment for the entire family. The event lineup can be found here.

Whoop-Up Days has continued to evolve over the years, especially when it comes to the food. There are over 20 different food trucks and vendors. Organizers said there is something for everyone’s taste buds.

READ MORE: Whoop-Up Days 2015

“It’s good to see variety and we have had a few comments from people walking through the park that there are lots of different vendors,” said Doug Kryzanowski, the marketing manager for Exhibition Park.

The rodeo has also changed its format to a Can-Am Pro Challenge called Bucking Barrels.

“It’s Canada versus USA. There are 16 pro cowboys from the USA and 16 from Canada. Every night it’s the same performers going against each other for the money,” Kryzanowski said.

Kryzanowski said 2014 was the worst attendance in Whoop-Up Days history, but that was not the case last year, when over 50,000 people walked through the gates.

“Last year we gave away to one day of weather, like we are having here today. An ideal fair day is 20 to 25 degrees,” he said.

Economic Development Lethbridge said the fair gives the Lethbridge economy a huge boost.

“I think when people are getting into the festive spirit they are spending money they may not otherwise spend,” Economic Development Lethbridge’s Trevor Lewington said.

Whoop-Up Days events aren’t confined to Exhibition Park. Businesses, non-profit groups and other organizations host low-cost or “by-donation” pancake breakfasts or barbecues throughout the week in various parts of the city.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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