It’s been a long-awaited announcement for Lethbridge, after months and months of cancelled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One thing has become exceptionally clear by the amount of questions we get, calls coming in, emails and questions at the grocery stores,” said chief executive officer of Lethbridge District and Exhibition, Mike Warkentin at a press conference on Friday morning. “What is happening with Whoop-Up Days this year?”
The answer, Whoop-Up Days will take place Sept. 2-5, 2021.
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Warkentin said hours were purposefully planned to avoid any interference with the COVID-19 vaccination clinic operating at Exhibition Park. Thursday’s festivities will run from 4 p.m.-11 p.m., Friday 12 p.m.-12 a.m., and Saturday 12 p.m.-12 a.m.
On Sunday, the Rocky Mountain Turf Club will close out the weekend by kicking off their fall meet with a day at the races.
Due to construction at Exhibition Park, scheduling, and planning an event coming out of the pandemic, things will look a little bit different, but Warkentin said it was important for them to move forward with the event, and make sure it’s accessible to everyone.
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“We know that there are a lot of people in the greater community who have had a tough couple of years, which is why this year Whoop-Up Days will have free admission for people to attend,” he said.
Parking on-site will also be free but will be extremely limited because of construction.
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“We do heavily encourage people to take public transit,” Warkentin said. “The new City Link system does allow for a stop right out the grounds.”
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The change of dates was to accommodate the midway, produced by Wild Rose Shows.
“We knew as we got closer to this reopening that the city wanted this level of celebration,” said Warkentin. “Obviously there’s been some successes up the road this week in Calgary and we wanted to ensure that we had that same level of celebration in this community. And what culminates the summer more than a midway in southern Alberta?”
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He added that the midway will also be reduced to allow for more space.
Festival-goers will not need to show proof of vaccination or take a rapid COVID-19 test, like the Nashville North tent at the Calgary Stampede this year.
“We’re still trying to figure out what [our occupancy] looks like,” he said. “We will likely be tracking the number of people on the grounds and working with the essential services if there are any other requirements that change this summer.”
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Live music in the Heritage Hall beer gardens will feature Uncovered, Ryan Lindsay, Eric Braun, and Coda Blues.
Due to scheduling and construction, the usual downtown parade and western events will not be taking place this year.
Even though the festival looks different, Warkentin said he’s happy to give people something to look forward to.
“Whoop-Up Days is about community celebration,” he said. “For anyone who grew up here it’s that culmination of summer — you ride the swings, you grab a jumbo ear, and it’s just part of growing up here.
“We wanted to ensure that everyone had a good experience coming out of the pandemic, as it’s been hard for so many reasons for so many people.”
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