By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman
Southern Alberta Newspapers
The Lethbridge and District Exhibition has announced the return of Whoop-Up Days from Aug. 22 to Aug. 26, with two big differences from past years.
It was announced earlier this month that the fair will not only be taking place in the new venue of the Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre, but those attending will be able to enter the grounds for free.
CEO Mike Warkentin said that after hearing multiple pleas for free admission from members of the community throughout the years, the Exhibition has made the decision to make it happen, and what better year to do it than this year which brings with it a new space.
“We are committed to making Whoop-Up Days a fun, friendly and accessible celebration for the entire community and with the opening of the Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre, which will be used for the programming of this year’s fair. There is no better time to make sure our entire community is welcomed to come and visit and see the incredible new facility,” said Warkentin.
When it comes to what people can expect to see at Whoop-Up Days 2023, Warkentin said that even though some more announcements will take place between now and August, a few things have been confirmed.
“The Whoop-Up Days parade is the iconic start to Lethbridge’s most popular and longest running fair, starting at 9 a.m. on Aug. 22 for the parade showcases the people, businesses and organizations that call Lethbridge home. It’s a celebration of the region’s heritage and future,” said Warkentin.
He said applications to participate are now open.
Shortly after the parade, the gates to the grounds will be opening at noon to give everyone an opportunity to enjoy Whoop-Up Days 2023 for the rest of the day.
In there, they will be able to enjoy more than 30 rides brought in by West Coast Amusement Midway, the return of the Global Pet Foods’ Super Dogs, the Whoop-Up Days Marketplace, a variety of food trucks with live entertainment and beer gardens to be announced.
“Colourful celebrations and centuries of culture come alive at the second annual Siksikaitsitapi Pow Wow and Princess Pageant presented once again partnership with the Blackfoot Confederacy and taking place in the new Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre, dancers and drummers will compete for more than $60,000 in cash prizes,” said Warkentin.
Another highlight from last year coming back to Whoop-Up Days is the Lethbridge and District Pro Rodeo featuring Warrior Relay Races.
“One of the most anticipated stops on the Pro Rodeo circuit, contestants are battling for over $80,000 in prize money, that helps them qualify for both the Canadian Finals Rodeo and the International Finals Rodeo,” said Warkentin.
He said this year they are adding the Blood Tribe Ag Society Finals Rodeo which will take place in the grandstand and will crown champions of the Top 10 competitors in each event of the Blood Tribe Rodeo season series battling here for the championship.
One of the directors of the Blackfoot Confederacy Tribal Council, Kirby Smith said they are very grateful to be invited to participate in the planning of this year’s events and to be invited to take part of it once again.
“It’s a real honour for us to be part of the process and we’re really grateful that we have an opportunity to showcase a lot of what we have in terms of our talent, but also the fact that it’s a learning opportunity for a lot of the folks that have not seen or have not been to a pow wow before, and it’s a learning opportunity for those that have not had that kind of level of engagement with our Indigenous culture,” said Smith.
Executive producer of the Lethbridge Pro Rodeo, Kynan Vine said that building off from the turnout of last year’s event, regardless of the weather, he is hoping to have an even better turnout this year.
“I was really proud of what we ended up being able to pull off last year despite the weather, and I think this year is going to be even better,” said Vine.
He said having the rodeo tie to a city event provides them with more exposure, bringing people to the rodeo that under other circumstances might not go to it.
“And on the flip side to that, it builds a bigger platform for the actual rodeo contestants themselves and having the numbers of people coming as compared to maybe a smaller community rodeo that’s just drawing on just the rodeo fans,” said Vine.
Whoop Up-Days will end with a display of fireworks on Aug. 26.