Calgary Stampede back on with oil prices high, COVID rules low

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FILE PHOTO: Calgary Stampede gets underway

By Rod Nickel

(Reuters) – With crude prices around $100 a barrel and COVID-19 restrictions largely gone, the Calgary Stampede looks to reclaim its place this year as Canada’s biggest oil industry party.

The 110-year-old event, featuring a rodeo, midway and ubiquitous pancake breakfasts, will run from July 8 to 17 with heavy networking at dozens of boozy parties around the city.

The Stampede was cancelled in 2020 for the first time ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year’s scaled-down event drew 529,000 people, less than half the usual attendance due to tight global travel restrictions. This year, the Stampede expects more than 1 million people, said spokesperson Kristen Anderson.

High oil and gas prices – largely due to sanctions against major producer Russia – have boosted oil patch activity this year, lifting the industry’s mood even if capital spending lags that of previous booms.

“It’s a monster change (from) two years ago,” said Duncan McPhedran, president of Big Guns Energy Services. “Two years ago there was very little going on anywhere. Now there are new projects being planned, there’s growth.”

The Stampede injects C$540 million ($414.02 million) annually into Alberta’s economy, according to a 2019 Conference Board of Canada study.

Oil industry parties are a hot ticket, said Michelle Mollineaux, marketing director at data company ZE PowerGroup, which is hosting a reception next week.

ZE has registered 400 guests, twice as many as its room can hold and surpassing its attendance from 2019.

“Everyone is just champing at the bit to re-engage, get back to the old way,” Mollineaux said. “We haven’t seen anybody for so long.”

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“Even the curmudgeons are excited about it,” said Calgary Chamber of Commerce CEO Deborah Yedlin. “The locals who usually leave town during Stampede. This year, some of them are saying, ‘I’ll stick around.'”

Actor Kevin Costner will lead the annual parade on Friday. Past marshalls have included Walt Disney and beer mascot dog Spuds MacKenzie.

($1 = 1.3043 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Josie Kao)

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