The "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth" is returning this July, but some events have been cancelled ahead of Alberta's second COVID-19 summer, Stampede officials said Thursday.
The Stampede's biggest rodeo event, the Rangeland Derby, will not be a part of the evening show this year.
"That was a very difficult decision for us," Stampede spokesperson Kristina Barnes told CBC News.
"The pandemic has had a very serious impact on the sport, they haven't been able to race … like any other professional sport, it wouldn't be appropriate to go from spring training to a high-stakes championship."
Meanwhile, country music artist Paul Brandt — originally scheduled to appear at the Grandstand Show — will no longer be performing.
Brandt said in a statement that he will be back to stages including the Stampede "as soon as the time and opportunity is right."
In spite of cancellations, Barnes said that many Stampede hallmarks will be back — albeit with fewer attendees in the park and more attractions moved outside.
Attractions that can't be done safely will not be done at all, she said.
"We're really focusing on outdoor experiences," Barnes said.
"Expect the rodeo, the midway, food, fun, animals, celebration of Indigenous culture — all of those things that are very much important parts of Stampede will be there, [but] again, looking a little bit different."
Safety comes 'first and foremost'
After the pandemic forced it to cancel for the first time in almost a century in 2020, thousands of local job-seekers and hundreds of local vendors and performers are looking forward to the return of the Stampede this year, organizers said.
The Stampede announcement comes after the Alberta government unveiled its three-stage "open for summer" plan on Wednesday, a strategy for lifting health restrictions that is tied directly to vaccination rates and hospitalization numbers.
It aims to have all restrictions lifted — including the ban on indoor social gatherings — by early July, which should be two weeks after 70 per cent of Albertans age 12-plus have received at least one dose of vaccine.
Stampede officials said they were "extremely encouraged" by the plan, but it was stressed that safety would be a top priority for the event's organizers.
"The safety of our community is first and foremost as we continue to plan for the 2021 Calgary Stampede," said in a release Thursday.
"Specific experiences, activities and operations will continue to flex and adapt based on the evolving situation and the guidance provided directly by Alberta Health."
Coun. Jyoti Gondek, who represents Ward 3 and sits on the Stampede board, said on Twitter that the province's reopening plan is a good start — but it's missing a vaccine strategy.
The mayoral candidate told CBC News that everyone working at the Stampede, including staff, performers and volunteers, will need to be fully vaccinated to ensure the event is safe.
"Anyone that we are putting to work … must also be able to take the proper precautionary measures of having two vaccination shots in place before the event is a go," said Gondek.