A special breakfast at the Calgary Stampede that would usually feed thousands was smaller this year and paid tribute to first responders for their unrelenting efforts during the pandemic.
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was at the Ismaili Muslim Community’s 24th annual Stampede Breakfast on Saturday.
“This is very different, like so many things are very different,” he said.
“Normally, this breakfast serves 5,000 to 10,000 people, it’s open to the public and it’s the highlight of a lot of folks’ Stampede.”
“This year, the Ismaili Muslim community has decided, in the interest of safety — and also in the interest of honouring what we’ve been through this year — that they will have a small event where they cook breakfast for first responders, they highlight the work of the Canadian Mental Health Association,” Nenshi said.
“Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to use this Stampede as a pivot from this awful year we’ve had to a more optimistic future.”
The Calgary Stampede went ahead this year after being cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
New safety measures adopted by the Stampede this year include cutting daily attendance in half. Staff and volunteers are also required to wear masks and get COVID-19 rapid tests.
The Centre for Newcomers worked in partnership with the Stampede to offer vaccines at a pancake breakfast on the grounds Friday.
“We’re having a breakfast to encourage people to come out and have a pancake, but also get their vaccine shot,” said chief operating officer Harry Yee. “Hopefully, we could get a lot of people vaccinated.”
“We’re only here for an hour, but by taking over this hour, we’re getting a good turnout,” Yee said.
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“Hopefully, we could get a lot of people vaccinated.”
Alberta was the first province in Canada to relax nearly all of its public health measures on July 1, including its province-wide mask mandate and cap on gatherings. A City of Calgary vote shortly after removed a mask bylaw just in time for Stampede.
For the mayor, it was emotional to see those essential city workers in person again.
“I’m a little choked up because, like everybody, I’ve been relying on these first responders to do their work, but I haven’t seen them. I haven’t been out to the fire halls and police stations,” Nenshi said. “People have been working really hard.
“For me, it was oddly emotional to take a picture with some of the firefighters of this hall, just to thank them for their service this last year and every day.”
Nenshi said, for him, this year’s Stampede is a salute to what Calgary and Alberta have been through these last 17 months.
“A salute to the essential workers, to the front-line workers, to the grocery store clerks, the health-care workers, as well as an opportunity for us to acknowledge what we’ve lost and what we’ve gained and a chance to create a brand new Stampede and a brand new future for Calgary.”