Rodeo fans were eager to get back to the Canadian Finals Rodeo after a hiatus brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020, the CFR was cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Event organizers opted into the province’s Restrictions Exemption Program, which means attendees had to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test result.
As of Oct. 25, Alberta’s vaccine passport requires 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine
Mike Olesen, CEO of Westerner Park, said there was a bit of pressure on the event but says he’s happy with how it’s come together.
“We really just decided this event was a ‘go’ six weeks ago,” he explained.
“Ticket sales started slow because we have folks on both sides of the pendulum with COVID-19. Attendance numbers have grown over the week. It’s pretty much a sold-out crowd for Saturday night.”
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Olesen said enforcing masking in the arena has been a challenge. On Saturday afternoon, a sizeable portion of attendees was without masks or wearing them improperly as they walked around.
“The rules are pretty detailed… and confusing for folks who are here to have a good time and have a beer,” Olesen said.
“We’ve had to do some enhanced enforcement but we’ve been working really closely to AHS. We’re doing our due diligence but at the same time — it’s central Alberta and it’s rodeo.”
Jeff Robson general manager for Rodeo Canada, said the Canadian Finals Rodeo have been deeply missed by many.
“It’s the reason you rodeo all year — to come to the CFR.
“You can’t even describe how much (it matters),” he said.
“After the (2020 edition was cancelled) some contestants stayed home. Some went down south and rodeoed in the United States.”
Robson added now that things are back in action, he feels that the momentum of the new city can continue. Previously, the competition was held in Edmonton.
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“We can make this a real strong pull. We’re gonna get there. It was a little setback. Keep in mind, Edmonton had 44 years to perfect the CFR. We are just a couple of years in and I think we’re doing a damn good job.”
Red Deer’s economy will also benefit from the event being held in the city.
Olesen estimates $25-30 million will be generated from the event for Red Deer’s economy.
“It was really important to get our team back to work. It takes a team of thousands to put this on. It’s doing great things for (Red Deer) and businesses,” he said.
“Red Deer is busy. That’s why these events exist and we work so hard to put them on.”
Olesen estimated about 25,000 people total will have attended the CFR over the five-day stretch. In 2019, 35,000 people attended.
The CFR wraps up on Nov. 7.
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