The town is willing to provide up to $20,000 in backing should the Cochrane Lions Labour Day Weekend Rodeo proceed this year, providing it meets provincial COVID-19 regulations and organizers work with the Cochrane Emergency Committee (CEC).

Rodeo co-chair Kevin Firkus told council the Lions Club hasn't made a final decision on whether it will proceed but has laid out much of the groundwork to meet COVID-19 requirements.

Firkus said whether it would proceed would depend upon the province increasing the size of gatherings to 500 people or more. After deducting the participants and workforce, he estimates 350 to 375 tickets could be sold each day should there be a cap of 500 people. The tickets would be sold online. 

He said the majority of the rodeo's major sponsors are on board, and the committee is looking at the potential of raising additional revenue, including live-streaming the event. 

The Lions had originally requested financial support of up to $45,000, but Firkus explained that was based upon having the traditional four-day rodeo. He said this year's rodeo would likely be a two-day stripped-down affair that he believes could potentially break even.

"Honestly, if we get to that 500 number, I don't think it's going to cost the town anything," Firkus told council. 

The rodeo has been self-sufficient for over five decades, and it's only recently that they have received any community grants.

Research conducted seven years ago estimated the rodeo creates $1.2 million in economic activity.

"It has a huge economic impact on the town," said Firkus, "but in the same token, it's the safety of people that is important."

Councillors spoke glowingly of the Lions contribution to the community and the importance of the rodeo to the town's western heritage.

Councillor Susan Flower said she saw value in an event for the community, even if it wasn't feasible to hold a rodeo that weekend.

"I'd love a scaled-down approach, not worry about making money and giving it out to the community, but having an event to celebrate and bring together as many people together as you can get away with safely and not depending upon the town kicking in."

Firkus said the club was open to ideas.

"If it has to be something else, we'd be in full support of any ideas that council has as well for a community gathering," he said. "I personally think, and so does Cochrane Lions Club, that we do need an event and that's about the last weekend in Cochrane where we have a shot at doing it properly."

Mayor Jeff Genung said he appreciated the cautious approach being taken by the club as opposed to simply blazing ahead.

"I personally do believe we need something to hold on to, even if it's the brief or hope that we can have a rodeo this year."

"We want to do it with a balance of public safety while honouring our past, our history, and our heritage."

Councillor Marni Fedeyko initially motioned to provide up to $45,000. She questioned the need for a $20,000 cap.  Amendments, though, saw it reduced.

Should it proceed, this would be the 54th annual edition of the rodeo.