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Calgary Stampede rodeo performers get exemption from COVID-19 travel restriction

Caleb Smidt, of Bellville, Texas, ropes a calf during semi-final rodeo action at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Sunday, July 14, 2019. The Canadian Press

International performers set to compete in the rodeo portion of the Calgary Stampede have been granted an exemption to Canada’s COVID-19 travel exemption, according to the province.

In a Friday statement, Premier Jason Kenney released few details about the nature of the decision, but said a National Interest Exemption was issued on Friday.

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“The federal government has granted performers and staff a travel exemption for the 2021 Stampede Rodeo, meaning this historic celebration of our western roots will be able to take place this year,” he said.

“Like Alberta itself, the Stampede has persevered through floods, fires, and much more. However, last year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was impossible to have people gather safely. Now, with vaccines on our side and Albertans lining up to get protected, we can add a global pandemic to the many obstacles the Stampede has overcome.”

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The government is hoping the province will have shifted into the third and final stage of the reopening for summer plan by the time the 2021 Stampede is set to launch on July 9.

“We are also closing in on the 70 per cent (vaccination rate) threshold for Stage 3 of Alberta’s Open For Summer Plan that will end the public health restrictions,” Kenney said.

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Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he and the Calgary Stampede are committed to a “very safe” event.

“For those who want to experience it, for those who want to look at it as turning the page onto a new future for us, we’re going to have the safest possible Stampede,” he said.

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Nenshi said the exemption was for a bubble, similar to those put in place for other sporting events like curling, will allow American cowboys to come compete here, ensuring the highest caliber competitors are involved.

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He said this bubble will be different from others that have been set up in Calgary, because there will be spectators, making it more like the recent NHL playoffs bubbles, which allowed fans in the stands in Montreal, as well as in the U.S.

“I’m very confident we’ll be able to keep the athletes safe and keep the spectators safe as well,” Nenshi said.

Global News reached out to both Alberta Health and the Public Health Agency of Canada for more information on where the competitors would be coming from, whether there are testing or vaccine requirements, and how many people are covered under the exemption. This story will be updated when a response is received.

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