CANADA Sky-high oil prices are largely fueling the return of...

Sky-high oil prices are largely fueling the return of the Calgary Stampede parties

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A visitor watches fireworks from the middle of Calgary Stampede in 2016. The annual festival covers most of the city and is accompanied by pancake breakfasts, beer barbecues, and corporate rodeo boxes. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

With Calgary Stampede fast approaching, hopes are high for one of the best party seasons the city has seen in nearly a decade, fueled by sky-high commodity prices and pandemic-related pent-up demand.

In the last few years the festivities have been subdued; The 10-day event was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and attendance well below last year’s average, with border restrictions in place.

But many expect fun, drunken celebrations in a few weeks.

When tickets for the “Best Damn Stampede Party” went on sale, about two-thirds of the tickets sold out in two days, said organizer Rob Laidlaw, who expects the event to sell out.

Due to the pandemic, the usually annual party held at the Stampede Fairgrounds returns this year for the first time since 2019.

“It’s off the hook. So many people are demanding tickets,” said Laidlaw, who is also vice president of Acumen Capital Partners.

“Enthusiasm in the city is just boiling. You can feel that people have a pent-up desire to go back and start a stampede.”

Party goers pack a party tent run by the Cowboys in the Calgary Stampede. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Not only is the price of oil hovering near multi-year highs, the price of natural gas is also the highest in more than a decade. That’s why this year’s parties in Canada’s oil capital can rival those of 2013 and 2014, when oil prices topped $100 a barrel.

“I mean, there’s a whole different kind of noise going on in Calgary again that we haven’t seen in about eight years,” Laidlaw said. “I think this could be one of Stampede’s best weeks.”

The Calgary Stampede is a boon for local businesses during its 10-day run when revelers visit the fairgrounds as well as other parties, beer tents and events throughout the city. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Holidays coming soon

Bundles of hay, faux wood railings and cowboy-style window murals will soon begin appearing throughout downtown Calgary in preparation for the annual event, which typically draws over a million guests each year.

It’s not just the oil industry that’s getting in the holiday spirit this year, but many other industries are throwing parties during Stampede to celebrate their employees, chat with customers, and greet out-of-town guests.

“In terms of our sales, corporate packages, premium seats and venues, the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Calgary Stampede spokesperson Kristen Anderson said of Corporate Calgary’s support this year.

Companies are grabbing ticket packages and sponsorship opportunities for this year’s Calgary Stampede, organizers say. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The city’s hard-hit hospitality sector saw a boost in business when the Global Energy Show took place earlier this month. But this season of Stampede is expected to provide a significant financial boost.

This is not just for bars and restaurants, but for taxis, hotels and many other businesses, said Deborah Yedlin, president of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

“Surprisingly, [I’m] I hear that more companies are accepting customers again at a level that they have not done before,” she said.

Restaurants, bars and event organizers in Calgary are once again gearing up for large crowds during the Stampede. (SHS)

Personnel restrictions

Oil and gas companies are enjoying record earnings this year due to unexpectedly high commodity prices. Business activity is also growing for many service companies serving the oil industry, from welding shops to parts suppliers.

Current commodity prices represent an extraordinary change in the state of the oilfield from 2020, when prices plummeted, even briefly turned negative.

“When the economy is out of whack, Stampede events certainly don’t do well,” said David Howard, president of The Event Group, which hosts concerts and other live events in the city, including dozens of Stampede-related events.

He describes Calgary as a new upbeat this year compared to several previous ones.

More than a million people are expected to visit Calgary Stampede in 2022, says Kristen Anderson, communications and media relations manager. (Louise Mokin/CBC)

However, ongoing labor shortages limit the number and size of events companies are willing to host.

“I wish we had the team, the opportunity and the space to do more,” Howard said. “Unfortunately, we were unable to open new accounts due to lack of staff.”

Most Stampede parties require not only waiters, bartenders and security, but also other jobs such as sound engineers and decorators, he said.

The 10-day Calgary Stampede officially kicks off on July 8, with actor Kevin Costner selected as this year’s parade marshal.

A woman in an illuminated cowboy hat listens to auction at a Calgary Stampede chuckwagon canvas auction on April 12, 2022. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

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