Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Crowds walk along the midway during the Calgary Stampede in Calgary on Sunday. The local economy is looking good as Calgary Stampede spirit envelops Canada’s oil and gas headquarters city — but not quite as good as it was a few years ago. The annual outdoor event started off by setting an attendance record on parade day last Friday but since then has settled back, with cumulative attendance through Tuesday coming in second to the overall record year of 2012, when the Stampede celebrated its 100th year.

Stampede spirit boosts attendance but Calgary economy still in recovery mode

Calgary’s economy is looking good as Stampede spirit grips Canada’s oil and gas headquarters city — but not quite as good as it was a few years ago.

The annual outdoor event set an attendance record for its parade day last Friday and cumulative attendance through Tuesday is second only to the overall record set in 2012 when the Stampede celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Similarly, sponsorship rights to the 36 chuckwagons invited to race at the Stampede raised $3.2 million last March in an auction. That was much higher than the $2.4 million in 2017, but well behind 2012’s record high of just over $4 million.

Ben Gerwing, president of a cowboy boot manufacturer in Calgary that is celebrating its 40th anniversary, said that this year started out more promising than in the past couple years but business has “tailed off” in recent weeks.

“I think there’s still a fair bit of uncertainty going on, even with more people going back to work,” Gerwing said.

He said Alberta Boot Co. sales are down about five per cent from 2017 but the company still hopes to sell about 1,500 sets of its $300-plus boots.

Better times in the economy have been touted frequently by Premier Rachel Notley and other members of the NDP government as they make frequent appearances at the 10-day event, which wraps up on Sunday. A provincial election is expected to be called next spring.

“There’s a great buzz around Calgary. People are very encouraged,” Notley said before marching in the parade last Friday.

“It’s been a great start to what we know is the greatest outdoor show on earth and I believe of course that was very much linked to Calgary’s economic recovery,” she told her cabinet in Calgary after her Stampede breakfast on Monday.

The statistics paint a picture of an economy still recovering from a recession that technically ended in 2016.

The June unemployment rate in Alberta was 6.5 per cent, a full percentage point better than in the same month last year, but not nearly as good as 4.6 per cent in June 2012.

Benchmark U.S. oil prices closed at US$74.11 per barrel on Tuesday, up 65 per cent from just over US$45 per barrel a year ago but not as good as the plus-$100 prices in the summer of 2014 — a few months before prices began to plunge.

U.S. natural gas closed at US$2.79 per mmBTU on Tuesday, down slightly from a year ago, but Canadian gas has averaged only C$1.60 so far this year thanks to an oversupply in Western Canada as U.S. shale gas production rises.

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