From Whoop-Up Days to Pride Fest: What southern Alberta events are happening this summer

During the summer months, several large attractions take place in and around Lethbridge, including Whoop-Up Days. Eloise Therien caught up with some event organizers to find out how they’re planning amid COVID-19 uncertainty.

Planning a major event takes time, and with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing on, organizers in southern Alberta are considering their options.

Some have already cancelled, such as the Rotary Dragon Boat Festival and the Lethbridge International Air Show, while others are cautiously planning to move ahead.

“I think by August, people will be ready to get together and we’ll certainly be ready to host them,” said Lethbridge and District Exhibition Park chief operating officer Mike Warkentin.

According to Warkentin, the peak of the annual Whoop-Up Days fair was in 2019, when around 40,000 attendees crowded Exhibition Park.

In 2020, he said the event was initially cancelled, then pivoted to offer some options such as a drive-in food truck fest.

This year, dates have been set for August 17-21, but there’s no clear picture as to what Whoop-Up Days will look like.

“It will be a modified version, and what that looks like, I wish I had the answer today,” Warkentin admitted. “We are still working through that and hoping that people get vaccines and we can open back up here in the summer.”

With the midway provider being based out of British Columbia, Warkentin said they are working day by day to understand their options.

“I don’t think we’re going to be out of the woods by the time Whoop-Up Days rolls around.”

He added the construction on the Agri-food Hub and Trade Centre would have hindered the event regardless of the pandemic.

“Had COVID-19 not happened, Whoop-Up Days probably would have looked different this year and next because of the restricted footprint,” he explained.

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Also in August, Taber Cornfest organizers are hoping their 2021 event will be able to go ahead as close to normal as possible.

Co-chair Rick Popadynetz is eager to have their free family event back to status quo.

“We’ve been doing it for 30-some years,” he said. “So we continue to plan to have it, but we’ll adapt and overcome whatever requirements happen in the future with COVID-19.”

“We’ve got a really awesome group that can change directions and pivot, if need be.”

Organizers with the Lethbridge Jazz & Blues Festival were unavailable for interview, but tell Global News they are also cautiously proceeding with planning and hope to announce more details in the near future.

However, some events occurring this spring aren’t holding their breath for in-person possibilities.

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Lane Sterr, chair of the Lethbridge Pride Fest Society, said organizers have decided to move their June celebrations online.

“It’s not going to be our standard pride festival season like we’ve seen in previous years,” he said. “A lot of our events are going to be mostly virtual.

“We’re possibly aiming to do something in September or October, kind of (as a Pride) just later on in the year, but we’re unsure of that.”

With final details still up in the air for most, Stephen Braund with Tourism Lethbridge reiterated there is more to the area than just its major events.

“Events are very important, but the city is more than that — the region is more than that,” Braund said. “Regardless of events, Lethbridge is a great place to come, stay here, and explore Rocky Mountains, Badlands and more.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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