BOWDEN, ALTA. — On the same day when Alberta announced 2,433 new cases of COVID-19, thousands attended a rodeo outside of Bowden, in defiance of the province’s health regulations.
The “No More Lockdown Rodeo Rally” took place on a lot along Highway 2A.
The event was billed as a way for interested residents to voice their concerns over public health measures and the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hundreds of cars filtered in and out of the property for most of the afternoon, and inside, busy bleachers hosted tightly-packed fans.
CTV News saw one mask being worn at the event.
Both Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the RCMP warned organizers in the days leading up to the event that it wasn’t permitted under current provincial rules. Alberta’s leaders have limited outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 10 people.
Two RCMP officers did attend the rodeo around 2 p.m., but they left shortly after.
In reponse to inquiries about the event going ahead, AHS sent a statement to CTV News saying “it is disappointing that the organizers …went ahead with their event, knowing it was a clear breach of the current public health restrictions.
“In addition, it is extremely concerning that people would knowingly put their fellow Albertans at risk by ignoring the restrictions, particularly with increasing cases and the subsequent pressure on our healthcare system.”
The rodeo was moved from Bowden after the town’s Agricultural Society revoked its permit for the group to use the area’s rodeo grounds. That move was made following discussions with Alberta Health Services.
“I think it would have been good for the businesses here in town,” Bowden mayor Robb Stuart said. “I know the town and the AG society has done everything they possibly can to ensure we weren’t infringing on anybody’s rights to still follow like we have to deal with under the Alberta Health Services’ protocols.”
A pair of rodeo cowboy associations also distanced themselves from the event last week. The Foothills Cowboys Association and Wildrose Rodeo Association recently reversed course and withdrew their support of the event.
On the Northcott Rodeo Facebook page, organizers said that they “will not stand by idly and watch as not only our businesses but also our Western heritage and more importantly, our basic human rights are ripped out of existence by the tyrannical beings of our current world.”
To some, the event is almost as much a political rally as a sporting event.
Guest speakers, well known for their opposition to COVID-19 health restrictions, are slated to talk on Saturday and Sunday, including Innisfail activist and mayoral candidate Glen Carritt.
Repeated calls and messages from CTV News to Ty Northcott, owner of Northcott Rodeo Inc., have gone unanswered.
AHS says it is considering legal options in regards to the organizers of this event.
Bowden is located approximately an hour north of Calgary.
(With files from Kevin Green)