Planning is being cranked up and tickets are on sale for the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Red Deer and fingers are crossed it will be the rip snortin’ event of old.
Organizers say the Nov. 3-7 national rodeo event will happen, but whether proof of vaccination or COVID screening will be required, seating limited or other health measures in force is out of their hands.
“It will be up to the Alberta health authorities what we do there and it’s quite aways away yet,” said Terry Cooke, president of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.
“We’re going to do what exactly what we have to do to abide by the protocols and whatever the government tells us we have to do. We’re playing it by ear now.
“That’s the problem,” said Cooke. “It’s up in the air and no one knows what’s going to happen and what Alberta Health is going to decide by then. I mean we’re hoping and praying everything stays fine, but nobody knows for sure.”
Meanwhile, rodeo organizers are busy behind the scenes.
“Plans are going well. Tickets are on sale and everything seems to be going fine.”
While organizers are obviously hoping for a full house “if that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. It’s completely out of everybody’s hands who are on involved in the event.”
The finals, which moved to Red Deer in 2018 after 44 years in Edmonton, provide an estimated $37 million in economic spinoffs. The 2020 event was cancelled because of the pandemic, making this the third event in Red Deer.
Westerner Park CEO Mike Olesen said they are planning for a full event but are preparing a risk assessment and will have contingency plans in place to deal with whatever health requirements are present by rodeo time.
Organizers obviously hope to know the lay of the land health-wise as soon as possible but “we’ll deal with whatever hand we’re given.
“We’re working on how to communicate to fans in terms of any refunds if there are restrictions that may not work for what they need, such as they require proof of vaccination.
“If someone has bought tickets and they have not received a vaccination, or won’t, that’s a variable we need to be prepared for.
“We may be dealt a hand that we have to adjust to very close to the event for all we know, but that’s why you plan for contingencies and manage risks.”
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been rising steadily in Alberta beginning two weeks after the province relaxed most health restrictions on Canada Day. There are concerns a fourth wave could be coming in the province, which has the second lowest vaccination rate among the provinces.
There has been no word yet if there will be any restrictions on fans attending Red Deer Rebels games.
The WHL announced Monday that it has adopted a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy that requires all players, hockey operations staff, other team and league personnel, and officials to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before the start of the 2021-22 season. Players are also strongly recommended to live in billet homes where the residents are fully vaccinated.