Calgary Stampede is kicking-off this weekend in what is likely to be 10-days of fun, excitement and ‘Stranger Things’ madness. Of course, all that comes with the need for extra safety. Calgary Stampede security is ramping up this year after the exhibition committed to a whole ‘Hawkins Funfair’ vibe for the Stampede and are expecting more than 100,000 visitors to the event each day. In response to the overwhelming interest in the 2019 Stampede, officials have committed to maximizing the security, to ensure everybody is kept safe throughout the festivities.
It is not uncommon for visitors to the Calgary Stampede to experience bag checks and metal detectors, but this year the grounds are stepping up the security. For the 2019 Stampede, there will be more metal detectors, and more bag searches, so guests should expect to be stopped on their way in. Visitors have been asked not to bring anything to the event that they would not take through airport security, including marijuana.
As this is the first Calgary Stampede since cannabis legalization last year, event organisers have had a new aspect of planning to consider. However, Jim Laurendeau, vice-president of park planning, has confirmed consumption of cannabis will not be allowed at Stampede Park.
That said, the organizers did say that it would not be confiscated from anybody carrying it, as it is a legal possession. Those caught actually using any drugs, including marijuana, will be stopped, according to Laurendeau. “Our policy is they'll be asked to stop and if need be we would take measures including escorting them off the premises,” he said.
According to officials, the number of cameras at the grounds have increased by 10 per cent to address any gaps in security. Similar to last year, it is likely the main entrances will be blocked by large cement planters to prevent possible vehicle attacks. Despite the bump in safety, officials have confirmed there is no concern about an attack of any kind, only concern for general public safety.
Calgary police Insp. Paul Wyatt confirmed that event staff are prepared for all outcomes. “We have plans in place,” he said. “We hope we don't have to use them, but we're prepared.”
Speaking on Wednesday, Wyatt noted, “We're mindful of other world events where other incidents have occurred ... where harm has been done to people by vehicles and things.” He added, “It would be naive of us not to put measures in place to counter that.”
Organizers have also asked the public to keep their eyes open for anything suspicious. “Watch for unusual situations or items or if someone is acting strangely. And if you see something, please say something,” Wyatt said.
Despite the bump in security, the head of Calgary's Emergency Management Agency, Tom Sampson, says police, fire and EMS officials are prepared for a brilliant, and safe, weekend.
Sampson said, “We've run scenarios on the parade and we've run scenarios on the Stampede grounds. And I can tell you that we will be prepared and have the safest Stampede on record.”
This comes just weeks after the City of Toronto was criticized for the handling of crowds during the Toronto Raptors Victory Parade, when an estimated two million people descended on the city to celebrate. First responder units from the parade voiced their concern about how the event was managed after a baby became ill during the festivities and paramedics reportedly had to battle intense crowds to reach the child.