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Small businesses face uncertain future after Calgary Stampede cancellation

Small businesses face uncertain future after Calgary Stampede cancellation
WATCH: With Calgary Stampede officially cancelled, the iconic Smithbilt Hat company is among many taking a big financial hit. As Cami Kepke reports, businesses, and the Stampede board, would still like to see some kind of celebration happen.

One of the most iconic images linked to the Calgary Stampede, and the city itself, is a white hat.

People from all walks of life, including a Second World War spy, city volunteers, the Dalai Lama and Ozzy Osborne have taken part in the Cowtown tradition.

READ MORE: 2020 Calgary Stampede cancelled for first time in over 100 years amid COVID-19

But Smithbilt Hats, the company that produces the headgear, says they’re losing big time with the cancellation of the 2020 Calgary Stampede.

“They’re one of my biggest customers,” vice-president Brian Hanson said. “Probably 70 per cent of our business is directly related to the Stampede.”

COVID-19 pandemic forces cancellation of 2020 Calgary Stampede
COVID-19 pandemic forces cancellation of 2020 Calgary Stampede

In a typical year, Hanson said the company would sell 10,000 felt cowboy hats and 30,000 straw ones over the 10-day festival.

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Their storefront has been closed since mid-March but they’re still filling online orders.

READ MORE: Calgary small businesses scramble to survive coronavirus pandemic

While that side of the business has picked up, Smithbilt said it’ll need to tighten their belts to make it through with the future still looking uncertain.

“We’re kind of in the same boat as everybody else,” Hanson said. “Nobody really knows.

“There’s a lot of businesses struggling and we’re one of them, I suppose, being that directly tied to the festival. It’s going to be hard on us.”

Hanson said he’d still like to see Calgarians don their western wear this July to celebrate rodeo heritage and support local businesses — while maintaining a safe distance.

READ MORE: Economic impact of Calgary Stampede expected to surge amid BMO Centre expansion

At Thursday’s press conference, Stampede president and CEO Dana Peers says the board is still hoping to find some way to celebrate and they hope to have more to announce shortly.

“We’re looking ahead to think about how we can interact with our community, how we can bring Stampede spirit, how we can bring our Western heritage and values to the community in the coming months,” Peers told reporters.

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“What I would say is that we’ll continue to work on that. And please keep your hats on.”

President announces cancellation of 2020 Calgary Stampede
President announces cancellation of 2020 Calgary Stampede

The Stampede was cancelled for the first time in over 100 years amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.