Stampede bars say corporate spending down at least 35%

Just two weeks ahead of the Calgary Stampede, Cowboys’ massive tent is coming together for the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.

Just how many boots will be two-stepping on the dance floor remains to be seen.

Paul Vickers of Penny Lane Entertainment Group, which owns Cowboys, is hopeful cowgirls and cowboys will come despite Alberta’s economic slump but they’re expecting less business.

“There’s no doubt we’re down 35 per cent on the high-end range.”

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    Cowboys says corporate spending has been cut with low oil prices and layoffs.

    READ MORE: Calgary investment dealer cancels annual Stampede bash as crude doldrums linger

    It’s still optimistic it will attract 20,000 a people a day, but it’s had to slash ticket prices – in some cases by half.

    “It’s pretty hard to get people past $75 to $100 for a ticket,” Vickers told Global News. “Definitely the higher end tickets do not sell.”

    It’s the same for the rodeo and chucks ticket sales at the Grandstand in Stampede Park.

    Still, Stampede President and Chairman Bill Gray is hopeful they’ll match or even surpass last year’s attendance of nearly 1.2 million guests.

    “Some of the premium seating areas are a down a little bit more than we thought they might be,” Gray said. “But we actually budgeted for that. We anticipated that, and we ran our 2016 budget based on that, so we’re fine financially.”

    Others are not.

    Canada’s largest gay rodeo and music festival held in Strathmore, east of Calgary, cancelled its event this year after losing money in 2015.

    The organization has now dissolved, blaming the economy, sponsorship and ticket sales.

    Veteran event planners say the state of Calgary’s party scene has changed dramatically.

    Dave Howard’s The Event Group has been in business nearly two decades.

    “Calgary’s dead, like it’s dead,” Howard said about how many events are being held in the city.

    Howard says he is seeing more smaller Stampede parties being organized than last year, but no big-scale events that fought for venues and supplies a couple years ago.

    “We have nothing over 500 people, so that’s a drastic change when we’re talking about doing events for 2,000 to 3,000 people.”

    It’s why the hospitality industry says they’re focused on individuals over companies this year to fill their venues.

    READ MORE: Calgary’s iconic King Eddy set to host live music during Stampede 2016

    They hope Calgarians are in the mood for a good time, after many weathered a gloomy year.

    “I think more than ever, I think people are looking for a good time,” Vickers said.

    “They want that escapism, that fun – I don’t care if it’s for one day, for one hour.”

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