By Sean Rooney on April 28, 2020.
They had little choice, but on Tuesday night the Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede made it official – there will be no Stampede this summer.
In the wake of provincial restrictions confirmed to apply to outdoor festivals, the local Stampede’s board of directors decided there was no way to safely hold the 122nd edition of the massive rodeo and exhibition.
“The health of our city and community comes first, and we support the health care professionals and front-line workers who are bravely looking after us in this time of crisis,” said Stampede president Rick Ebel in a press release.
Originally set for July 22-25, the Stampede estimates it would have brought $5 million to the local economy. But with no gatherings of more than 15 people currently allowed in Alberta due to the COVID-19 pandemic, even the best safety measures would still put patrons in close contact with exhibitors and each other.
The Stampede first took place in 1887, taking place annually until the First World War in 1914. World War II prevented the Stampede from taking place starting in 1939, but it was back in 1947 according to a history of the Stampede on its own website.
There is a chance COVID-related restrictions could yet be lessened by July. Alberta premier Jason Kenney said in a press conference Tuesday that he will unveil a plan to relaunch later this week. However, the Calgary Stampede was cancelled last week and most major events in the province through the summer have already been called off.
The press release stated that arrangements are being made to “offer alternatives to ticket holders for Stampede events.” The Stampede had previously postponed the April spring rodeo until Sept. 18-20, and held off June’s chuckwagon races. Tuesday’s release stated that chuckwagon races are now being rescheduled to 2021.
“The loss of these annual events will be difficult since they are an important part of the annual income for many individuals, businesses and charitable organizations,” said the release. “Let’s consider this an investment in our future and encourage the community spirit and optimism that strengthened previous generations to deal with adversity over the years. The values of our western heritage will prevail and make Stampede events in the future bigger and better than ever.
“We wish to thank the community and our patrons for their understanding, we are all in this together, doing our part to keep our community healthy and vibrant.”