Heat warning not keeping people away from first weekend of Stampede

Visitors flocked to the Calgary Stampede on Sunday with the city of Calgary under a heat warning from Environment Canada.  (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh - image credit)
Visitors flocked to the Calgary Stampede on Sunday with the city of Calgary under a heat warning from Environment Canada. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh - image credit)

Downtown Calgary's Stampede Park is packed with Stetson-wearing festival goers this weekend, in spite of an Environment Canada heat warning.

More than 161,000 people jammed into the grounds for the Stampede's opening day – just short of 2023's best-ever opening day attendance of 164,939.

Stampede CEO Joel Cowley said about 340,000 people showed up over the first two days, putting the festival about two thousand admissions behind last year's record-setting pace.

"Our concerts are toward the end of this year's Stampede," said Cowley. "So we couldn't be more pleased with the turnout and the support, and the enthusiasm."

The strong attendance numbers come with the city of Calgary under an Environment Canada heat warning.

Daytime highs of 30 to 35 degrees Celsius are expected until at least midweek, according to the warning.

Environment Canada is asking Calgarians to take precautions like drinking plenty of water and moving outdoor activities to cooler hours of the day.

"With the longer days at this point in the summer, we're getting a lot of daytime heating, and not too much overnight cooling," said Rob Griffith, lead meteorologist at Environment Canada.

"That's leading to… a building in temperatures as we go forward."

Calgary residents and visitors are encouraged to monitor children, seniors and people with health conditions for signs of heat stroke.

Stampede CEO Joel Cowley is encouraging all attendees to head indoors, if they feel any signs of heat stress.
Stampede CEO Joel Cowley is encouraging all attendees to head indoors, if they feel any signs of heat stress.

Stampede CEO Joel Cowley is encouraging all attendees to head indoors if they feel any signs of heat stress. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

Cowley said everyone who visits Stampede Park should take proper precautions, adding that there are water stations throughout the grounds.

"We're so blessed to have the BMO expansion because that's additional indoor air-conditioned space that will host a lot more people," he said.

"If people are feeling any signs of heat stress, they should go inside and cool off."

A $500-million, 565,000-square-foot expansion of the BMO Centre at Stampede Park wrapped up last month.

Misting stations, medical rooms help people cool down

Kerrie Blizard, director of public safety and environment with the Stampede, said misting stations and additional water fountains kick on when temperatures climb above 28 degrees.

"Really we just adjust as we need to, to make sure everyone's taken care of," she said.

"Our medical rooms are prepared to support people with the heat, and we have ice and all sorts of things available to do that."

Rodeo animals have access to water immediately after they're finished competing, said director of agriculture and western events Kristina Barnes.
Rodeo animals have access to water immediately after they're finished competing, said director of agriculture and western events Kristina Barnes.

Rodeo animals have access to water immediately after they're finished competing, said director of agriculture and western events Kristina Barnes. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

Kristina Barnes, director of agriculture and western events at the Stampede, said the rodeo animals are regularly monitored by veterinarians and have access to water immediately post-competition.

"It's a very short exertion for most of those animals so it's not a lot of pressure on them," she said.

"Just like with people, making sure that you have that ability to take a drink, cool off."

Attendee says not enough water accessible on-site

Calgary resident Ben Waddington, who went to the grounds on Sunday with his wife and two kids, said it was difficult to access free drinking water and ended up using water from a bathroom sink.

"There are very long lines to access [water fountains]," he said. "Overall it seems like... there's absolutely inadequate amounts of water on-site."

Dubra Rodriguez travelled from Madrid, Spain to visit the Stampede on Sunday.

CBC News spoke to her as she was heading to watch the rodeo at GMC Stadium, to get out of the sun.

"It's hot. I prefer being inside, it's colder there," said Rodriguez.

Shelmer Millan said she was hoping to get a nice tan, but was taking care to cool while wandering around Stampede Park.

"We had water. And we made sure to splatter sunscreen all over our bodies," she said. "We try to be hydrated as much as possible and we try to [spend time] in the shade."

Temperatures are expected to peak on Wednesday, with Environment Canada forecasting a daytime high of 35 degrees.