Calgary event industry hopes for a lucrative season after ‘open for summer’ plan unveiled

Reaction to Premier Jason Kenney’s reopening plan is cautious but optimistic from those in Calgary’s event planning industry, who say they’ve endured two hard seasons during the pandemic.

On Wednesday, the Alberta government shared its three-stage “open for summer plan,” the third stage of which would come into full force two weeks after 70 per cent of Albertans aged 12 and up have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are optimistic that we’ll enter Stage 3 by early July,” Kenney said Wednesday.

Stage 2, requiring that 60 per cent of Albertans have at least one dose of the vaccine, allows for outdoor social gatherings of up to 20 people, including weddings, receptions and funerals. Also, public outdoor gatherings could include up to 150 people for events like concerts and festivals.

Stage 3 would result in all provincial health restrictions being lifted, including size limits on outdoor gatherings and the ban on indoor social gatherings.

“It’s great,” Darren Kershaw, the owner of Special Event Rentals in Calgary, told the Calgary Eyeopener.

His company provides items like large tents and food preparation stations to major events like the Stampede and Shaw Charity Classic golf tournament.

“Now at least you’ve got some light at the end of the tunnel to start making plans and to start reacting.”

Darren Kershaw, the owner of Special Event Rentals, is hoping the province will enter Stage 3 according to plan so that his company can work August events like the Shaw Charity Classic golf tournament. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Kershaw says the months of June, July, August and September are where his industry gets 70 per cent of its revenue, and he lost that last year.

He says wage and rent subsidies and loans kept companies afloat and it’s all about “survival” as an industry.

“If this summer doesn’t open up, you know, every party rental company in town and in the country is going to be shutting down,” he said.

One issue, he says, is co-ordinating staffing, given many of his employees are collecting employment insurance and the reopening plan isn’t certain.

Kershaw is hopeful that events like the Shaw Classic will keep his company busy in August.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” said Lynn Fletcher, owner of Lynn Fletcher Weddings, a wedding planning business.

“We’ve had a lot of clients waiting, waiting, waiting for this announcement,” she told the Eyeopener.

Fletcher says she is sitting on more than a $1 million in potential contracts, and has about 60 weddings on hold.

She thinks there will be a lot of last-minute nuptials this summer. Despite the pandemic, she’s retained her core group of staff wedding planners but typically hires around 80 seasonal staff.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.

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