CALGARY — There will be a parade to launch the upcoming Calgary Stampede, but it won't include hundreds of thousands of fans lining the city's downtown streets.
Stampede officials announced Wednesday that the parade, set for July 9, will be virtual and will still include floats, marching bands and riders travelling through the Stampede grounds to kick off of the 10-day world-renowned rodeo and fair.
The parade will be broadcast on Global television.
This year's parade marshal will be Katari Right Hand, a 17-year-old fancy dancer from the Siksika First Nation east of Calgary.
She is also featured on this year's Calgary Stampede poster, which was designed by Calgary artist Lexi Hilderman. It shows Right Hand dancing with rainbow ribbons flowing from her costume with the Rocky Mountains and dark clouds in the background.
"I was inspired by the image Lexi submitted and wanted to learn more about the remarkable young woman featured," said Stampede President Steve McDonough.
"Katari Right Hand’s name, Rainbow Girl, is a reminder that we are coming out of a storm together and that as the clouds move behind us, the sun will shine again."
Flooding in 2013 ago devastated parts of Calgary and other areas in southern Alberta. But the Stampede went ahead that year, as it did through the Great Depression and the Second World War.
Last year, it was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Premier Jason Kenney announced last month that almost all COVID-19 restrictions in the province could be gone by early July, clearing the way to holding the Stampede. A doctors group in Edmonton, however, has urged the premier to cancel major summer events, including the Stampede, or postpone them until the fall.
Stampede officials have said it is to be a scaled-down version with a priority on safety. The chuckwagon races won't be held and some indoor events could be moved outdoors.
The parade is also to include a special group of honorary parade marshals who have been instrumental in the battle against COVID-19.
"We want to recognize the essential workers who have given so much to our community throughout the pandemic," said McDonough.
"From those who went to work each day at local grocery stores to ensure we had access to essential supplies, to the medical staff who have worked so tirelessly."
Last year's parade marshal, Brazilian long rider Filipe Masetti Leite, is also being brought in for the festivities.
Masetti Leite completed a 3,400-kilometre journey on horseback from Alaska to Calgary last year, the same day the Calgary Stampede was supposed to begin.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2021.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press