The Calgary Stampede says it welcomed just under 530,000 visitors to the revamped event this year, a considerably — and perhaps unsurprisingly — lower turnout than previous years.
In 2019, nearly 1.3 million people attended the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
Calgary Stampede officials say they pulled off a pandemic success
Despite the drop in attendance, live event industry professionals say Stampede organizers should be commended for successfully putting on a large-scale event amidst a pandemic.
“I think they did a great job managing all the risk management and all of the health and safety — not only for the patrons coming in, but for the animals and for their staff and all their vendors,” LP Events owner Lesley Plumley said.
“I think they did a fantastic job.”
While the Stampede is undoubtedly Calgary’s marquee event each summer, the 2021 edition was more than ever a bellwether for some of the city’s other popular events still to come.
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“We always look at Stampede,” says Marda Gras Street Festival organizer Shannon McNally, “especially this year [to see] how people perceived going out and being around others.”
Similar to Stampede, the long-running street festival on 33 Ave S.W. will see guests be given more room to roam.
“We’re not going to have as long of a stretch for the festival, maybe a few less vendors, just to give everyone a chance to really spread out.”
Looking ahead to the rest of summer, live music will dominate July.
On July 22, the Calgary Folk Music Festival will kick off with a modified event called Summer Serenades at Prince’s Island Park. The festival, which runs until July 28, will be scaled down to one stage, while amenities such as the family area and artisan market will be absent this year.
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The Calgary International Blues Festival returns to Shaw Millenium Park for a four-day event on July 29.
The festival’s artistic director expects there to be roughly 3,500 total visitors, and says the guest experience will be close to what it was in previous years, albeit with a few additional changes.
“We do have some COVID management things going on,” said Cindy McLeod.
“We’ll create a space for people that choose to wear masks and and socially distance.”
Plumley says the live events industry still has a long road ahead to financially recovery, but that the impact of what the Stampede was able to achieve should not be understated.
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“What the Stampede did was show that you can still go in, no masks and vaccinated, and see people’s faces and be able to dance again.
“It showed everybody we can do mass gathering safely and effectively.”
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