Calgary Stampede organizers say proof of vaccination will be required to get into one popular live-music venue when the 10-day cowboy festival starts Friday.
"We will require guests to show proof of vaccination or take a free rapid (COVID-19) test to gain entry to Nashville North," vice-president Jim Laurendeau told a media availability on the grounds Tuesday. "This will be unique among Calgary's live music venues this Stampede and provide a high level of assurance to our guests."
Other safety measures will include cutting daily attendance in half, sanitation stations for the public and enhanced cleaning throughout the grounds. Staff and volunteers will be required to wear masks and get rapid tests.
The chuckwagon races aren't being held and the parade to kick off the Stampede will be confined to the grounds without any public viewing.
The world-renowned rodeo and fair is returning this year after being cancelled last summer due to the pandemic.
Nashville North is one of the most popular attractions during what is referred to as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.
Dr. Jia Hu, a public health physician who is working as an adviser to the Calgary Stampede, said he's convinced the event can be held safely.
"We're in a pretty good spot here in Calgary and Alberta ... our vaccination rates are higher than I would have dreamed possible six or eight months ago," he said. "We will be implementing some of the most robust and innovative safety protocols in Alberta."
Some safety measures are breaking new ground, he added.
"As far as I can tell, this is certainly the first event in Alberta where we're requiring proof of vaccination or a rapid test."
Laurendeau said tickets have been selling steadily, but there won't be millions of visitors per day as was the norm before the pandemic. He said most visitors are likely to be coming from Western Canada.
"We are really expecting this to be Calgary's Stampede this year and southern Alberta's Stampede," he said.
"Certainly we would see some people from other nearby places in neighbouring provinces, but we are all aware that international travel is still constrained at the moment."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 6, 2021.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press