Questions and complaints are swirling around the entrance process for the Nashville North music venue at the Calgary Stampede.
Due to COVID-19, there are a few more steps to get to two-stepping.
First, tent-goers must get a bracelet proving they’re vaccinated. If not, they need a rapid test. Then, they check in, and in some cases, wait.
Ryan Klasen and his partner Stacey Greenberg are avid Dean Brody fans but missed Friday night’s show because of the slow-moving line. He said it took about an hour to get bracelets.
“You wait for that bracelet. They don’t tell you that you have to go way across the whole grounds and get over to the tent of Nashville North, and then, you scan the QR code at that spot,” he said Monday.
“We finally go over and find out we’ve got to scan the QR code. When we did, we were 1,050th in line. We didn’t realize that, and it just said, ‘We’ll text you when we’re ready to have you come to the front of Nashville North.’
“There was a huge lineup of people there. We’re like, ‘Do we wait in this line?’ It was longer than the bracelet line,” he said, adding that hundreds of people were shoulder to shoulder.
The experience was disappointing, lineups were confusing and communication was lacking, Klasen said.
“We started this whole process around 6:40 at night. We got a text at 11:30 at night saying we could finally come in if we were around still, so you’re talking four, five hours later. It was crazy. We’re not even on the grounds anymore at that point,” he said.
“That was probably the most disappointing part: we didn’t even get to attend after spending hours trying and trying to figure things out.”
Klasen said they witnessed people trying to bypass the process.
“We heard them saying they just paid somebody to get in the line. They said they paid $35 to get in the front of the line,” he said.
“Luckily, the ladies that were entering the information into the computers sort of saw this going on. When we got up to the front, they didn’t allow them to go. They told them they needed to go to the back of the line too.”
Klasen said he saw Stampede officials take immediate action, bringing in police to keep the peace.
But Stampede officials dismissed claims of an inept processing system and bribery at the tent.
Stampede vice-president Jim Laurendeau said the testing program at Nashville North is going “extremely well.”
“No one has ever done this before on this scale,” he said. “Certainly, for Sneak-a-Peek on Thursday, we had a few things that we needed to iron out, and we did that, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.”
Laurendeau said he is confident in their process and its integrity, noting Stampede has third-party auditors.
He explained the proof of vaccination process takes about one minute and 30 seconds while the rapid test takes 25 minutes.
“There have long been lineups to get into Nashville North, and that’s part of the experience of being there with your buddies,” he said.
“Yes, there have been lineups at times. There have been lineups that weren’t necessary due to our digital queuing program, but that’s an education process for our guests as they understand how the queuing system works.”
Laurendeau said the crowds at Nashville North are about pre-pandemic size.
“Given the measures that we’ve taken to pre-qualify people for entry, we’re very happy to have this many people having this much fun at Nashville North,” he said.
Dr. Jia Hu, a public health physician and Stampede advisor, said the “vast majority of people” are not faking their vaccination records.
“There is sometimes a bit of a line, but people are happy this is happening because it makes them feel more safe,” he said.
“We are the first group in the country to do this at scale, and it’s worked out wonderfully. Yes, there have been a few kinks, but with a 0.05 per cent positivity rate, with most people bringing in their proof of vaccination, this has gone really, really well, and I think people are able to have a lot of fun safely.”
The Stampede has processed about 22,000 people, with 70 per cent of them showing proof of vaccination and 30 per cent getting a rapid test, Hu said.