Stephanie Babych

Published:July 6, 2021

-Calgary Herald


Calgary Stampede attendees hoping to get their fill of live music at the Nashville North tent will have to provide proof of immunization against COVID-19 or complete a rapid test, Stampede officials announced Tuesday.

As soon as Stampede opens for Sneak-a-Peek on Thursday, anyone hoping to enter the music venue will need to show they received at least one dose of vaccine two weeks before they’re attending the tent, or get a negative on-site test result.

The “2 Ways 2 Two Step” initiative is in partnership with 19 to Zero, a coalition of academics, public health experts and behavioural economists that was launched at the University of Calgary in August 2020 to engage with COVID-19 behaviours and shift public perceptions around vaccination.

“As we join the communities around the world that are returning to live entertainment events, this simple process provides an extra level of comfort specifically for Nashville North,” Jim Laurendeau, Calgary Stampede’s vice-president of programming and operations, said during a press conference in the Nashville North tent on Tuesday afternoon.

“Stampede 2021 is tailored so that everyone can Stampede their way, choosing activities and experiences based on their own level of comfort.”

The proof of vaccination or free rapid test will only be for entrance into Nashville North, and will not be required for the rest of Stampede Park.

Anyone who has received a vaccine against COVID-19 two weeks before they plan to attend the music venue can bring a copy or photo of their vaccination record or show their record on Alberta Health’s MyHealth App.

As well, those hoping to experience the lineup of all Canadian artists at Nashville North will have to enter a digital queue instead of standing in a physical line, which is another change this year to improve safety. The canopy-style tent is located next to the Grandstand — on the opposite side of the grounds than it usually is — and doesn’t have walls to increase airflow.

Dr. Jia Hu, a public health physician who’s been advising the Calgary Stampede, said he “wholeheartedly” believes Stampede can be run safely.

“We’re in a good spot in Calgary and Alberta in general, our case counts are very, very low and our vaccination rates are higher than I would have dreamed,” said Hu.

“We really are trying to go above and beyond when it comes to ensuring the safe experience of everybody who’s participating.”

In Alberta, 73.5 per cent of the eligible population have received a first dose, and 49.6 per cent have returned for their second shot to be fully immunized against COVID-19. This is a total of 4,629,699 doses administered in the province.

Alberta Health reported 33 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, representing a test positivity rate under one per cent. With those cases, there are now 763 active cases across the province.

There are 138 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 32 in ICU. Two additional deaths were reported Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 2,305.

More than 50 per cent of the province’s active cases are in the Calgary zone, where Laurendeau anticipates most of the Stampede’s guests will come from.

“We are really expecting this to be Calgary, and southern Alberta’s, Stampede this year. Certainly, we’ll see some people from nearby places and neighbouring provinces but we are aware international travel is still constrained at the moment,” he said.

The momentum for ticket sales has been quite noticeable in the last four or five days, he said.

“We are nearly ready to welcome the community to a Stampede with some things that we all know very well and some that will be new and different. Get ready for the fun and familiar, the energy of live music, the thrill of the midway rides, the amazing animals in the agriculture zone and the flash of the fireworks. It’s all back,” said Laurendeau.

Those attending the evening show will experience Broncs After Dark, a lineup of high-adrenaline horseback competitions that will open the beloved Bell Grandstand Show.

Lynda Franc, a spokesperson for North American Midway Entertainment, said her firm has been fortunate to run 45 events across North America coming into this Stampede, so staff are prepared with fewer rides for more distancing and light-up queue spots to guide people.

“We brought everyone’s favourite rides. We brought the Zipper, the Crazy Mouse and the Polar Express. It’ll be a wonderful time for anyone who decides to join us,” Franc said.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback, not only from families but from the staff working as well.”

Expect to roam, Laurendeau said, explaining that there are wider aisles on the midway and more space between attractions. As well, all guest-facing employees and volunteers will wear masks, despite city council voting to repeal Calgary’s mask bylaw on Monday.

Guests comfortable masking are encouraged to do so, but it isn’t required.

Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry reminded people to pack a face mask even if they don’t plan to wear one around the grounds. Provincial guidelines continue to mandate face coverings on public transit and in public vehicles, including taxis and ride-hailing cars.