'I’m hopeful': Kenney says decision on 2021 summer events in Alberta expected in February
CALGARY -- A decision on whether summer events — including the Calgary Stampede — will go ahead in Alberta in 2021 and, if so, what they'll look like, is expected to be made in the coming months.
"I’ve said to Dr. Hinshaw and our team that I believe, by the end of February, we need to give a very clear signal about what summer events might look like," said Premier Jason Kenney in a town hall-style Facebook live conducted Thursday night.
Kenney believes the province will be in a better position to reduce health measures and there will be more flexibility for hosting outdoor events than indoors ones.
The premier attributes his optimism to several factors, including the plateau of COVID-19 cases Alberta is currently experiencing.
"Plus, the expected decline in numbers coming from our most recent restrictions, and the growing positive effect of the vaccination program, [the province] will be in a position by the summer significantly to reduce but not completely eliminate public health measures," said Kenney.
That’s welcome news across the province, as many festival and event organizers are already prepping for their 2021 editions.
They say “cautious optimism” is the name of the game.
“We continue to plan for next Stampede, for 2021, but we need to be flexible and adaptable given the circumstances and so many unknowns,” said Calgary Stampede communications manager Kristina Barnes.
Sarah Leishman with the Calgary Folk Music Festival says she’s hoping for the best.
But there’s only so much pre-planning a festival can do.
“Normally this would be the time where our artistic director is feverishly booking the festival,” Leishman said. “This time, it’s really just temperature check conversations (with talent booking agencies).”
The good news is the province says it wants to give organizers time to plan accordingly.
"We need to give certainty, or ability to plan well in advance," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, who joined Kenney’s Facebook live.
"We can’t make a decision on this in June and expect people to be able to actually go forward."
Hinshaw says there will likely be protective measures in place through the summer of 2021 but she is hopeful that the measures will be less restrictive that those of the summer of 2020.
"I think we know at the moment that this virus has a very clear seasonal pattern of spreading much more easily in the winter than in the summer," said Hinshaw. "We also know that the summer doesn’t make it go away entirely.”
Barnes added, "We would love to have a packed grandstand, but what’s more important is safety.”
The 2021 Calgary Stampede is currently scheduled to run July 9 to 18 and, according to its website, and planning is already underway.
The 2021 Calgary Stampede is currently scheduled to run July 9 - 18 and, according to its website, planning is already underway.