Time running out for the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth
CALGARY -- With all public events in Alberta cancelled until the end of June, Calgary Stampede is hanging on to its schedule by the slimmest of margins.
The annual 10-day party and rodeo celebration is scheduled to kick off July 3, just three days ahead of the current city social distancing order.
A loss this year — even a delay — would cost a lot of money. According to the Stampede board, the event pumps about $400 million into the economy each year.
A statement on the Stampede website reads, "Planning has been on hold since restrictions were placed on mass gatherings. We will continue to be paused until we receive further direction from our government partners."
The Stampede hasn’t missed a single year since 1923 despite the Depression, the Second World War and the flood of 2013.
North American Midway has been forced to stop its touring and pull back nearly 100 rides to its Tampa Bay facility. Normally, the company would be looking forward to the early July run in Calgary, but now it all seems up in the air.
"We’re ready to go, and as soon as we get the green light we’re going to get out on the road and start putting smiles on people’s faces," says Scooter Korek of North American Midway.
"I feel really bad for our fairs — there are lots of fairs that have been around since before the Dominion of Canada."
He adds fairs everywhere will be affected by the pandemic.
"Fairs have only got one shot," he says. "If they are taking place in May or June, they’re probably going to be cancelled."
In some cases, they won’t be able to survive until next year, taking their long histories as family gathering places with them.
Time is also running out for chuckwagon drivers to get their horses trained and ready for this year’s Rangeland Derby. They require about 45 days of training which takes 60 days to complete.
According to the World Professional Chuckwagon Association, the first four races on this year's schedule have been cancelled because of the pandemic.
Calgary Stampede is currently 78 days away.