As officials with the Calgary Stampede continue to firm up plans for the 2021 run of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, there are still a lot of questions about how the event will function and what exactly it will look like.
On Monday, the Stampede officials hosted a Q&A on the grounds to discuss their plans.
Here’s what we learned:
Staff, volunteers required to wear masks and undergo rapid testing
Interim Calgary Stampede CEO Dana Peers said mandatory masking will be in place for Calgary Stampede employees and volunteers.
In addition, the stampede will have a “robust” rapid testing program for front-line employees and volunteers to make sure they are COVID-19 negative.
Attendees ‘encouraged’ to wear masks
By the time the 2021 Calgary Stampede is set to begin, Alberta is expected to be in Stage 3 of the province’s “Open for Summer” plan, which would see all restrictions lifted.
Despite this, Peers said they would “certainly encourage that guests also wear masks.”
Heightened safety measures in place
Officials said there will be reduced lineups due to digital cueing systems, sanitization stations and enhanced safety and cleaning protocols.
Proof of vaccination being considered for ‘certain’ Calgary Stampede venues
Dr. Jia Hu, a public health physician and advisor to the Calgary Stampede, said officials are “considering” proof of vaccination at the 2021 event.
“The contemplation of proof of vaccination and rapid testing is fairly unprecedented, actually, for any sort of event right now in the province of Alberta,” Hu said.
Peers said right now the discussion of proof of vaccination centres around “certain venues,” including Nashville North.
They’re also exploring the potential of requiring anyone hoping to go inside certain venues to undergo a rapid test and subsequently test negative before entering.
“Definitely our teams continue to explore that,” Peers said.
Nashville North will look different than it used to
Aside from the potential for proof of vaccination being required prior to entering Nashville North, Peers said the iconic dance hall is now an “open-air” structure and “more of a canopy and not a tent.”
This year, Nashville North will have digital cueing to cut back on lineups — which can be a challenge to social distance in.
There could be a vaccination site on the grounds
Peers said the organization is “certainly open” to having a vaccination site on the grounds and will be working with provincial authorities and Alberta Health to determine if that’s something that will happen.
Fewer people attending this year’s event
Officials confirmed they will be limiting capacity for the 2021 Calgary Stampede.
With no foreign visitors, which accounts for 10-15 per cent of Stampede attendance, according to Peers, the Stampede is also expecting to see a drastic decrease in the number of daily visitors.
“We believe probably that we’ll be probably 50 per cent of what a typical day at the Stampede would be in terms of numbers,” Peers said.
Venues will also have capacity limits.
Fewer rides on the midway
Along with fewer midway rides, officials said they will be widening aisles and reducing content by 25 per cent to create more space for physical distancing.
There is no doubt positive COVID-19 cases will be found
“I don’t doubt that a (COVID-19) case will walk into the Stampede,” Hu said.
He said it’s important that during the run of Stampede, positive COVID-19 cases are identified as quickly as possible.
“I do think the combination of our preventative measures as well as the responsive measures – which is the early identification of cases, rapid tracing, rapid notification — is going to nip it in the bud quite quickly.”
Contact-tracing protocols will be in place
Peers said the Stampede will have contact tracing protocols in place, including a “team of people” that will be monitoring the situation.
“We’re committed to meeting and exceeding Alberta Health guidelines,” Peers said. “We’ll follow the guidelines as they evolve.”
Officials do believe the event will be safe
“We can pull this off safely and responsibly,” Hu said.
“There are three main things that will keep the event safe,” he said. “First of all, it’s primarily an outdoor event and we know that outdoor transmission is exceedingly rare. Secondly, we are significantly reducing capacity.
“Lastly, we are taking a risk-based approach.
“We understand that certain things are riskier than others, and that’s why we’re implementing things like masking, rapid testing and considering proof of vaccination.”
Meanwhile, Peers said visitors are able to celebrate the Stampede in a way that makes them comfortable.
“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.
Calgary Stampede president and chairman of the board Steve McDonough said Stampede 2021 will “look different from those of the past” and it will be safe.
“We will only host a safe Stampede,” McDonough said. “The safety of our guests, our competitors and our community is our absolute priority.”