For a second year in a row, the Rainmaker Rodeo has been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.
“While we're disappointed and sad that we can't run the event, we want to make sure everybody understands that health and safety are at the forefront of our minds in making this decision,” said Rob Ladouceur, the rodeo and exhibition chairperson.
On May 6, the City of St. Albert released a statement announcing the decision to cancel the 2021 event. The decision was made in consultation with the Kinsmen Club of St. Albert, which has been hosting the event for over 55 years.
The rising rate of COVID-19 cases in Alberta and uncertainty surrounding when the current public-health measures will ease were contributing factors to the decision.
Ladouceur said they waited until now to make the decision because Alberta Health Services told them early in the year that events might be able to run in June as long as COVID-19 numbers were under control.
“That's why we waited and waited, until finally with the surge and the way things are, I just can't see any events like ours running, through until maybe sometime in late July if we're in good shape,” he said.
They were in talks with the city for three or four weeks before they made the final decision.
“We all felt that it would be almost impossible to put on an event that we can call the Rainmaker because we can't get many fans in stands for the rodeo, which means we would lose money,” he said.
Social-distancing requirements would make it nearly impossible to run the fairgrounds safely.
“The rest of the event really relies on us being able to get lots of people out for the weekend and because we can't do that in a safe way ... We and the city felt that it would be best for us to cancel,” he said.
In a media statement, Mayor Cathy Heron said the decision wasn't made lightly.
"The city decided to act now to give the event organizers as much advance notice as possible,” Heron said.
In 2020, the rodeo was also cancelled due to COVID-19. Last year, the city decided to cancel all public events until June 1, which affected festivities surrounding the rodeo.
Ladouceur said the main reason he joined the Kinsmen Club seven years ago was because he participated in the rodeo and absolutely loved it. He has missed putting on the event over the last two years.
For the 50th Rainmaker Rodeo anniversary, the Kinsmen put in more money for a bigger event with bigger bands. Ladouceur said he sees them doing the same thing for the next celebration.
“I think that we want to step it up next year if we can, and we're already looking at ways to do that, but it's still pretty early on and I think we've got a long road ahead of us before we can start that planning,” he said.