File photo by ADVOCATE staff Thousands of Albertans who usually flock to Westerner Days should learn Friday morning whether this year’s fair can be held.

Updated: Westerner Days’ fate expected to be announced Friday

Edmonton’s K-Days and Calgary Stampede have already been cancelled this summer

There will be no Edmonton K-Days or Calgary Stampede this summer, and word on Red Deer’s Westerner Days is expected Friday morning.

Thursday, Western Park CEO Mike Olesen sounded hopeful, even after learning Edmonton’s summer showcase had been cancelled because of measures in place to protect spread of COVID-19.

Later, after the Calgary Stampede announced it was suspending its 10-day exhibition and fair, and Alberta’s chief medical officer of health discounted large gatherings in the “foreseeable future,” the tone changed.

“Please watch our page tomorrow morning for an update,” Westerner Park said, in part, on the Red Deer Advocate’s Facebook page Thursday evening.

“Our community and public health is our top priority. We are all in this together.”

Central Alberta’s biggest summer event is scheduled for mid-July, while most city-run facilities will be closed to the public until at least June 30 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Olesen earlier said he was open to possibilities — such as rescheduling Westerner Days in August — if it would allow more time for the loosening of government restrictions on the size of gatherings in the province.

“It depends how everything goes with social distancing” reducing the viral spread, Olesen said earlier.

Right now, no more than 15 people are allowed to congregate in the province, and Albertans are being encouraged to hunker down at home, or get no closer than two metres from others while outdoors.

“We know how important (Westerner Days) is to central Albertans, and how important it is to us,” said Olesen.

The City of Red Deer is temporarily overseeing the finances of the non-profit agricultural society because it was having difficulties due to an ongoing recessed economy and the timing of a facility expansion.

Westerner Park drives more than $150 million of regional economic activity, and Westerner Days is one of its biggest revenue generators.

On Thursday morning, Northlands president and CEO Peter Male said the difficult decision was made to cancel Edmonton’s K-Days.

“It is with heavy hearts that Northlands announces that we are postponing the 141st K-Days, scheduled to take place July 17-26 … until July 2021 in response to COVID-19.”

Male added, “We are very disappointed, but we know it’s the right decision based on the information we have today.”

On Thursday afternoon, organizers of the Calgary Stampede said its event would not go ahead this summer.

This will be the first cancellation of the Stampede since it became an annual event in 1923. The event weathered the Great Depression, the Second World War and the 2013 flooding.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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