Richard Champion, the bareback riding Canadian title winner, rode to an 88.25 on Stevie Knicks on championship Sunday at the 2019 Canadian Finals Rodeo. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)

Richard Champion, the bareback riding Canadian title winner, rode to an 88.25 on Stevie Knicks on championship Sunday at the 2019 Canadian Finals Rodeo. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)

Updated: Canadian Finals Rodeo gets $50,000 sponsorship from Red Deer County

Sponsorship includes signs, advertising and trade show booth promoting the county

Canadian Finals Rodeo will get $50,000 in sponsorship help from Red Deer County.

The financial support matches the $50,000 provided to the national rodeo event in 2018 and 2019. The 2020 rodeo was cancelled because of the pandemic and this year’s event runs Nov. 3-7.

County Mayor Jim Wood said the sponsorship deal, which offers signage and promotional opportunities, free tickets for events and a trade show booth among other perks, is a great way to showcase the county.

“I think it is also an economic driver to promote Red Deer County, to understand Red Deer County, to get Red Deer County in the brain because we have a lot of development happening.”

Council unanimously approved the sponsorship. However, if new COVID restrictions turn it into a fan-less event, council wants to hear from Westerner Park officials about how that will affect the sponsorship.

“There is talk of it being a fan-less event,” said Coun. Christine Moore, who sits on the Westerner Park board.

Moore said council should consider whether its sponsorship should be reviewed if fans can’t attend and the county would not get the same promotional return as a live event.

County economic development officer Sandra Badry said the sponsorship will be discussed with Westerner Park officials if the event becomes fan-less.

Westerner Park CEO Mike Olesen said “at this point, we’re not planning for a fan-less event. We’re planning for a full-on event, including the variables we might face, such as having to deal with any other restrictions or any screening that the province may require.

“But to date, none of those restrictions have been announced or speculated on by the government, so we’re just continuing on.”

Westerner Park and Canadian Finals Rodeo organizers’ risk assessment and Alberta Health regulations prior to the event will determine what form the show will take — but it will go on.

“The event will go, no matter what. But if we are forced to be fan-less, then so be it, we’ll run the event fan-less.”

As part of the sponsorship, the county was to receive four tickets to paid concerts, four tickets to a suite for one performance and four tickets to each of the seven rodeo competition performances.

Council hoped to give those to county residents through a draw or some other means. If the event goes fan-less, it is doubtful those tickets could be used.

All councillors expressed support for the rodeo and said it would provide a boost to local businesses, including hotels and restaurants, as well as welcome entertainment for county residents who have not been able to attend events because of the pandemic.

While councillors agreed the sponsorship would change considerably if there were no fans, there was concern that making the sponsorship conditional would send an unclear message to Westerner Park.

“I don’t want to put them in the uncomfortable position that they don’t know what they’re getting,” said Moore.

Coun. Richard Lorenz said it is important council get another look at the sponsorship in the event fans are not allowed.

“I’m not saying we’re not going to give them $50,000. But at least they have to come back and explain what the situation is.”

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