Friday marks the 109th edition of the Calgary Stampede parade, which is the official kickoff to The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
The rides are up, the stuffed animals are displayed at the games tables and concession booths are loaded with supplies.
Forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to cancel last year — for the first time in almost a century — the Calgary Stampede has returned.
The setup may look familiar, but due to COVID-19, there are some notable changes to the 10-day celebration of cowboy life.
The walkways are wider, there are markers showing proper spacing in lineups and fewer rides.
“We wanted to spread this out, create more social-distancing space, so we brought less rides to achieve that goal,” said Scooter (Greg) Korek, vice-president of client services for North American Midway Entertainment.
“The rides that we didn’t bring were maybe some of our less popular attractions. We brought all the fan favourites.”
Including the ones that cause some riders to throw up?
“Absolutely,” Korek said. “That’s our core business.”
New safety measures adopted by the Stampede include cutting daily attendance in half, sanitation stations for the public and enhanced cleaning throughout the grounds. Staff and volunteers are required to wear masks and get COVID-19 rapid tests.
The chuckwagon races aren’t being held and the parade to kick off the Stampede is confined to the grounds without the public in attendance.
WATCH | Get a glimpse of what the Calgary Stampede will look like this year:
COVID measures prominent as organizers try to balance safety and a desire to get back to normal. 2:20
“What I would say is people need to guide themselves with their own level of comfort. But certainly, we feel very confident that we have created an excellent environment here for people to come in and enjoy themselves,” said Stampede vice-president Jim Laurendeau.
Korek said Calgary is the first stop in Canada and the entire midway’s staff had to be quarantined for two weeks upon arrival. The midway brings with it a full cleaning crew and everyone knows how to keep things sanitized and safe, he said.
“We started in March [with] our pandemic program, which is pretty extensive: social distancing, mask and gloves. We got really, really good at it.”
Parade kicks off
Friday marks the 109th edition of the Calgary Stampede parade.
According to the organization, the parade will have 60 entries,150 horses, two bands and eight floats.
This year’s parade marshal will be Katari Right Hand, a 17-year-old fancy dancer from the Siksika First Nation east of Calgary.
Naheed Nenshi will be part of the parade for the last time as Calgary’s mayor, after announcing he won’t be seeking re-election in April.
While there will be no in-person spectators this year, local media will be broadcasting the parade so Calgarians can watch from the comfort of their homes.