BOWDEN — Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, issued a statement today expressing their disappointment that an unexempted rodeo was held near Bowden over the weekend to protest COVID-19 restrictions.
The event, called the No More Lockdowns Rodeo Rally was held May 1-2 just south of Bowden at Highway 2A and Twp. Rd. 341 after it was disallowed at the Bowden Agricultural Society's rodeo grounds. Thousands of people attended both days, largely unmasked and not socially distanced.
Representatives of the Canadian Professional Rodeo Assocation (CPRA) also issued a statement on the event.
“Like so many Albertans, I was angered by the rodeo held this weekend near Bowden, in violation of the public health restrictions in place," Shandro said in a news release.
“Since Day 1, we have worked with the CPRA and many other partners to implement protocols and help safely resume the sport, when and where possible.
“We are proud to work with them, local MLAs and all other stakeholders who work diligently to find ways to protect the health of everyone involved and stop the spread of COVID-19.”
“Every choice matters and it is essential that we all follow the health restrictions in place every day, no matter what we are doing,” Hinshaw said in the release.
“Health officials are working closely with rodeo partners to bring a safe return to the sport but we must bend down the curve. This requires all of us working together.”
Jeff Robson, general manager of the CPRA said his organization is working with AHS, rodeo committees and other rodeo associations to bring the sport back as soon as possible.
“As an organization, we are focused on the long-term good for rodeo, the celebration of our western heritage and getting back to doing what we all love as soon as it’s safely possible to do so,” he is quoted as saying.
The news release said the Wildrose Rodeo Association, Lakeland Rodeo Association, Bullriders Canada, Chinook Rodeo Association, and Foothills Cowboys Association all supported the statement.
The Foothills Cowboys Association and Wildrose Rodeo Association recently issued a joint statement distancing themselves from the organizers of the No More Lockdown Rodeo Rally.
The two organizations were initially planning to sanction the anti-restrictions rodeo and rally in Bowden but mutually agreed to reverse course and withdraw their support.
“There has been a lot of attention around this event and if (Alberta Health Services) finds such event is not in accordance with (provincial) government mandates and restrictions, the backlash could be very detrimental to our organizations,” reads the statement approved by both group’s boards of directors.
Health officials have met with rodeo associations since January to share information and support a safe return, when possible and have worked with rodeo partners to identify safe guidance protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These were implemented in April.
Protocols include: no spectators; risk assessment for each rodeo activity; infection prevention procedures; daily symptom checks; contact tracing; rapid response plans; testing for anyone who cannot maintain two-metre distancing throughout the event; and, an official exemption is required to legally host a rodeo event in compliance with the safety protocols.
The release said Health officials will “continue to work with the rodeo partners going forward to safely resume hosting events with crowds in the future, when possible.”