Calgary Stampede music venue Nashville North to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or rapid test

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.

Other safety measures include cutting daily attendance in half, sanitation stations and masked employees

Stampede officials announced details of this year's event as preparations continued on the Stampede grounds on Tuesday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

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 media 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."

Proof of at least one vaccination, two weeks prior, can be provided through a copy or photo of a person's vaccination record. 

The venue will also require attendees to wait in line digitally — they'll receive a notification when they can enter. 

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.

Jim Laurendeau, vice-president of the Calgary Stampede, is shown announcing details of this year's event, which is set to begin Friday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

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 the Calgary Stampede, which bills itself 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."

The 2021 Calgary Stampede will run from July 9 to 18. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

The Stampede will also offer free admission to front-line workers (each can bring up to three guests) for the first five days of the festival. 

The Stampede said the offer includes, but is not limited to, health-care workers, educators, retail and grocery staff, restaurant workers and construction workers, as well as anyone who provides an essential service. No proof of ID is required to redeem the free tickets, the Stampede said. 

Registering for the free tickets in advance is recommended, but walk-ins will also be available, subject to park capacity. 

With files from the CBC's Sarah Rieger