Alberta carnivals, festivals permitted during public health emergency

An advertisement for a carnival that has drawn controversy, but is fully approved by Alberta Health. (Source: Wild Rose Shows Inc.)

As health-care workers struggle with a fourth wave of COVID-19 patients, other Albertans are able to go to weekend carnivals and festivals sanctioned by health officials and approved by the UCP government. 

A state of public health emergency was declared by Premier Jason Kenney on Sept. 15 as patients requiring intensive care hit all-time record numbers.

Still, in an effort to keep the economy going, Alberta is allowing businesses including festivals and carnivals to continue outdoors without vaccine rules – causing confusion and drawing criticism from some.

Responding to concern from residents, Slave Lake’s mayor clarified that he had no say in the carnival setting up in his town this week, because it’s happening on private land.

“This approval does not go through council!! My understanding is they have approval from AHS and it is up to AHS to monitor and enforce in the event. It is my hope that AHS does so. You should not expect to see me at a carnival this weekend,” Tyler Warman wrote on Facebook.

A commenter on the post called the event “dangerous,” and another said it was “surprising” that this was being allowed.

Others were happy that Wild Rose Shows Inc. was setting up in town.

“Don’t go if you’re worried,” commenter Jim Buchholtz wrote on a Town of Slave Lake post explaining the situation.

Wild Rose also had a show scheduled for Sept. 23-26 in Red Deer.

An employee told CTV News Edmonton over the phone that they were trying to save a family business after months of being shut down.

A spokesperson with the company did not return a request for further comment.

Alberta Health confirmed carnivals and other outdoor events are still allowed, and do not require special approval provided “social distancing is maintained between households.”

Outdoor events also do not require vaccine passports and there is no limit on capacity.

Several other festivals were also still scheduled to proceed through the health emergency.

The Lethbridge Electronic Music Festival was planned for Saturday in downtown Lethbridge and the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival was still a go in High River.

Organizers of both events did have to change plans to allow for the outside 2m distancing rule, their advertisements said.

The Edmonton International Film Festival planned to push on too. Running Oct. 1-10, organizers clarified safety rules in a Facebook post.

“We’re making it safer and more intimate while creating more space and keeping the same excitement and togetherness that guests have come to expect from a visit to the cinemas,” it read.

“All attendees will be asked to adhere to the health and safety guidelines that we’ve developed, along with public health requirements.”

Alberta announced 20 new COVID-19 related deaths Wednesday and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health repeated similar health advice.

“Our actions, such as going out while symptomatic, have very real consequences to those around us. Staying home when we feel unwell, wearing our masks when out in public, & getting vaccinated are critical to limiting the potential spread,” she wrote on Twitter.