Parties fewer, tone tamer at Calgary Stampede hit by low oil, fires

Mon Jul 11, 2016 4:05pm EDT
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By Catherine Ngai

CALGARY (Reuters) - The Calgary Stampede, the annual rodeo and networking extravaganza in Canada’s energy heartland, is a tamer affair this year after a two-year slump in oil prices and wildfires in May that displaced thousands of people in the country's costliest natural disaster.

Oil and gas producers, who have slashed millions in capital expenditures and laid off thousands of workers, are cutting back on everything from advertising to parties at the 10-day festival which runs to July 17, while spending is down at popular restaurants.

Extravagance could be frowned upon by investors following the evacuation of about 90,000 residents in the Fort McMurray, Alberta, fires and the rebuilding of homes expected to take months or even years.

The usual big corporate events with free flowing bars have either been toned down or canceled.

"Given the economic downturn, we didn't want to throw a lavish party this year," said John Chambers, chief executive of investment bank FirstEnergy Capital Corp, which canceled its annual party for the first time in two decades.

"I think people were expecting something more subdued in this environment, so we thought it was more effective to donate instead." FirstEnergy, which has raised more than C$3 million for 50 different charities at its parties over the years, will instead donate C$100,000 to four organizations, Chambers said.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd also canceled its party, while Cenovus Energy Inc scrapped its Stampede event for the second consecutive year, company representatives said.

At the Stampede, attendance is on target to hit their average 1.1 million to 1.2 million, said Theresa Howland, director of consumer marketing and sales.   Continued...

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley serves pancakes during the annual Premier's Calgary Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Alberta, Canada July 11, 2016. REUTERS/Todd Korol