Fairs seek federal support after COVID-19 cancellations

Both Ag Ex and Ag Days have announced they're cancelling

EVENTS This month, Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba’s Ag Ex and Manitoba Ag Days announced their upcoming shows were cancelled

An organization representing fairs, exhibitions and ag societies is asking the Canadian government for $74 million to keep 743 shows afloat after many, including Brandon’s Ag Ex, cancelled over COVID-19 concerns.

“The bulk of us have one shot to generate the majority of our revenue every year for the next 365 days and we’ve lost that,” said Amanda Frigon, president of Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions (CAFE) in a news release Aug. 3.

Why it matters: Ag Days, usually Canada’s largest indoor farm show, will not go forward in its usual form next year, while Manitoba’s Ag Ex has been cancelled outright, joining a long list of cancelled agricultural events.

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On Aug. 13, the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba announced it had cancelled the 2020 Manitoba Ag Ex, which was to run in late October. It was the last of the exhibition’s three annual fairs to fall prey to COVID-19 cancellation. Earlier this year, the organization also cancelled its Royal Manitoba Winter Fair (usually run in late March) and Manitoba Summer Fair (typically held in early June) along with other smaller events.

In a news release, the organization said it had hoped to proceed with some form of livestock show, but ultimately decided to cancel entirely.

“What’s even more difficult is this doesn’t just affect our organization. There are many businesses that rely on our events to generate revenue to support their families,” said Greg Crisanti, president of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba.

“Everyone is hurting right now and, while we want to help our community through celebration, we cannot commit to that right now,” he added.

According to the release, events hosted by the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba were expected to generate more than $18 million in economic impacts for the community.

The city of Brandon will also lose out on Manitoba Ag Days 2021, it was announced Aug. 17.

The indoor ag show brought about 45,000 people to Brandon’s Keystone Centre during the January 2020 event.

The show may emerge in another form, however, organizers say. General manager Kristen Phillips told the Manitoba Co-operator that they are floating several scenarios to exhibitors to see what suits their needs. No details have been announced, but Phillips said the new plan will be rolled out, “in timely fashion.”

“We truly are committed to ag education, innovation and supporting our rural communities,” Phillips said.

About the author

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Geralyn Wichers

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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