CALGARY -- Rodeo competitors coming to the Calgary Stampede in July will need proof of a COVID-19 vaccination as part of Ottawa’s isolation and quarantine exemption for international athletes at this year’s event.

According to Stampede spokesperson Kristina Barnes, both Canadian and international athletes as well as others connected to the rodeo will need to have received at least one shot by June 21.

Documentation will need to be sent to the Stampede prior to travel and will need to be on-hand while in Canada.

The federal government granted a one-time exemption to competitors, support staff and workers from having to quarantine at a government-approved hotel after coming into Canada earlier this month.

“For some it will be a designated hotel, for others it will be a different area because they are travelling with livestock,” explains Barnes.

Instead that group will undergo a modified quarantine and will have to follow local and provincial guidelines in place.

As part of the exemption, around 160 athletes and support staff will need to enter Canada through the Calgary International Airport or at the Coutts border crossing.

They’ll be required to be tested and receive a negative COVID-19 result prior to entering, then they will be tested again after entering Canada.

While awaiting the result in Canada, they may need to isolate at a designated hotel in Calgary. Competitors and support staff will also be tested throughout the 10 day event, as well anyone who is in close contact with them.

Barnes says the vaccination requirement was part of the Stampede’s pitch to Ottawa for an exemption but understand it will limit some athletes from participating.

“Typically, a lot of them will come to the Stampede and head back to the U.S. So, if they compete for the first four days, they’ll go back to the U.S. and compete in some rodeos and come back for the finals," she said.  

"That in itself is likely preventing some from coming but there are current a couple world champions on the list."

Due to the limitations with travel and the length of time since athletes last competed at the Stampede, there is currently not a full list in barrel racing so for the first time a qualifier will be held next week.

“This provides the opportunity for local competitions to come in, race for a spot at the Stampede which has never happened before," said Barnes.

STAMPEDE SAFETY

The Stampede is also considering proof of a vaccination or negative COVID-19 test for guests to attend some venues, including Nashville North.

The tent is a landmark music venue on the ground but this year will have a new look and location.

A canopy-style tent will be used to allow for more airflow and social distancing. The tent is also set up next to the Grandstand this year and will host a strong lineup of Canadian artists including Dean Brody, The Reklaws and the James Barker Band.

The vaccination and testing requirements are among many safety plans the Calgary Stampede has in place to bring back the 10-day fair since having to cancel in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Earlier this week, organizers unveiled their plans which include testing and masking protocols for front line staff and volunteers, capacity limits at venues and additional staff for cleaning and sanitizing.

The midway is also making room for spacing with about 15-18 per cent fewer rides.

Currently about 300 staff with North American Midway Entertainment are quarantining for 14 days at a bubble in Strathmore.

Scooter Korek says about 90 percent of the staff from the U.S. have had one dose of the vaccine and say they’ve been working closely with AHS to follow public health measures.

“There is going to be distancing markers at rides, there’s going to be face masks for all our staff, people at food concessions will wear gloves. We’ve got a long list of things we’ve been working on and we’re ready to go.”

North American Midway Entertainment is also holding a job fair at the TrailBlazers building on the grounds from 10 am to 4 pm Thursday to Saturday.

The Stampede is slated to run July 9 to 18.