Times Associate Editor
Strathmore’s community was perplexed and forlorn following a statement released by the Canadian Rockies International Rodeo (CRIR) that stated the 2016 music festival and rodeo would no longer commence in a month time.
In the wake of last year’s performance by the Village People and LeAnn Rimes, the Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association (ARGRA) which hosted the event – Canada’s largest gay rodeo – sought to introduce a music festival on Canada Day.
While acclaimed artists were already secured to take to the stage, such as Terri Clark, Kim Mitchell, and the Road Hammers, a recent statement on the CRIR website stated that a decision had been made to no longer proceed with the festivities – a decision that found its basis in lack of sponsorships and low ticket sales as a result of the Fort McMurray fires, politicians were told.
“It was a total surprise as far as I know for all of council and as far as I can tell for our community,” said Mayor Michael Ell, who was in contact with a representative from CRIR on May 24. “We thought things were going very well from the information we had. What had happened, they were having good sales and then with the fire up in Fort McMurray and the downturn in the economy the sales dried up. It was a financial decision, and it wasn’t a pleasant decision in regards to cancelling it all.”
This year would’ve marked the festival’s 23rd anniversary, and seventh year in Strathmore, and would’ve featured music by more than 12 esteemed artists, a rodeo equipped with 13 events that encouraged male and female participation, a barbeque, food trucks, as well as beer and wine vendors.
Festival organizers were unavailable for comment, but had released a statement on their website.
“We have made the extremely difficult decision not to proceed with the 2016 festival, due to take place June 30 to July 3, 2016,” the statement read. “The decision was not made lightly and we sincerely apologize to all the people this decision affects: the fans, artists, competitors, industry partners, vendors, corporate partners, suppliers and all of our supporters within the community.”
According to Ell, the events contributed approximately $200,000 in tourism last year, and he expected an even greater boom to the local economy this year. While the 2016 Rodeo and Music Festival will no longer take place this year, the town will still forge ahead with its annual Canada Day preparations.
“Clearly we are disappointed that it happened because it was a very major activity on our park and they have a long history here,” said Herb McLane, general manager of the Strathmore and District Agricultural Society, who was also told the cancellation was a result of the Fort McMurray fires and a dip in sales.
“We know that they did not take this decision lightly. I think they feel it personally, and so they are certainly experiencing some anguish over making an economic decision for something that was very close to their person. It added a dimension not only to our program here but to the community. It was a major event on many levels.”
The Strathmore and District Agricultural Society received significant contribution each year from the event, with the organization using the park extensively by renting park and rodeo space as well as additional space this year for the previously planned carnival.
Thus far, no indication has been made as to the return of the festival in the future.
“There’s the greatest possibility they won’t be able to revive it under the old banner so whether or not they can look at something in the future that’s still to be determined, it’s just so new they don’t know,” said Ell,
“They were very happy about the community and how things were working out and it would’ve been great for that music festival to have been an ongoing thing in the future. It would’ve been nice for the community to have had that, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.”