More details have been released about how the upcoming St. Paul High School Rodeo will be managed in light of COVID-19 restrictions. The Alberta High School Rodeo Association was granted an exemption for their events several weeks ago.
According to St. Paul Ag Society President Doug Drolet, they plan to run a full slate of ten events for competitors including calf roping, steer wrestling, and bull riding starting around noon on Friday. He said most of the stock will be provided by the Trach Rodeo Company.
“There’s different classes of competitors running in each event. So we’ll run all the classes through on that event, and just keep carrying on that way just so we’re not switching cattle out and people are not bumping into each other. It’ll just be a lot safer that way,” said Drolet.
He said with the changes to how the events are run, it may be a little bit slower than in previous years but they want to make sure they’re doing everything safely.
Safety is the primary concern with the rodeo this year. According to Drolet, there was a lot of concern from AHS about the number of trailers that would need to be parked in one area and how many close contacts there could be.
“When you’re hauling horses and you’re tacking up horses and getting ready, you need eight feet between each trailer so that will not be a problem,” said Drolet.
He said they’ll be using most of the space around the AG Corral, the arenas, and the St. Paul Rec Centre for trailers. Once the event starts, no spectators will be in the stands.
“It will just be the competitor who comes in with their coach or parents, those are the only people that are in there at that point in time, and then they have to exit. We’ve got people manning all the doors, we will be following AHS rules with disinfecting and mask wearing – all that stuff is in place,” said Drolet.
He said they’ve got about 290 entries which is “one of the biggest since we’ve been doing high school rodeo” but noted most kids are entered to compete in multiple events.
Although the winners will be determined this weekend, the buckles haven’t been ordered yet and will be shipped to the winners at a later date.
“We still have like $3,000 worth of buckles from 2020 that we’ll never use,” said Drolet. He said to have buckles ready for this weekend they would have needed to order them at least six weeks ago and with all the uncertainty around events it just wasn’t prudent to do it ahead of time.
“Those buckles [from 2020] are probably going to end up being displayed somewhere I think. It’ll probably be called ‘COVID-19 High School Rodeo’ and hanging on the wall someplace,” said Drolet.
Despite the differences in how this year’s event will run, Drolet said he’s still looking forward to it.
“We’ve been idle long enough. I think if we practice AHS rules we’ll be fine,” he said.
Drolet acknowledged with the rise in variant cases in Alberta there are people who are very worried about events like the high school rodeo and their potential for spreading the virus.
“I certainly don’t want to bring anything into our town but I do believe that with mental health and everything we’ve got to start getting over this.”
St. Paul High School Rodeo is scheduled to begin with the Junior Wrangler Rodeo at the Ag Corral from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday April 16. It will continue with the high school events starting around 11 a.m. on April 17 and April 18.