British Columbia

Vancouver's PNE Fair cancelled for 2021

The Fair at the PNE has been cancelled for 2021, further throwing the future of the financially struggling event into question.

Running event at necessary reduced capacity would not be 'financially viable,' organizers say

A worker sanitizes before the opening of PNE’s Playland in Vancouver on July 10, 2020. The PNE has announced its annual fair will not be going ahead in 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The annual fair at Vancouver's Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) has been cancelled, marking the second year in a row the struggling, decades-old fair has not gone ahead as usual.

The decision was announced in a statement early Wednesday.

"Despite our planning for a number of scalable versions of the PNE Fair, it is now clear that the number of guests required to make an in-person Fair financially viable will not be allowed under anticipated Public Health Orders this summer," wrote spokesperson Laura Ballance.

"Even a modified, lower capacity in-person PNE Fair will not be possible."

The cancellation is another blow to the PNE, whose future is now further in jeopardy after a year of financial loss. The 111-year-old exhibition stands to lose nearly $15 million due to closures over the past year, according to the city, and needs $8 million in financial aid to avoid shutting down.

The 15-day summer fair, located at Hastings Park in East Vancouver, typically attracts thousands of guests for its shows, exhibits, sporting events, amusement rides and concerts.

Aside from lost revenue, the decision to cancel means hundreds of jobs lost as the fair is B.C.'s single-largest employer for young people.

"Losing the second year of the PNE Fair is a massive loss of much needed employment for our members," wrote Andrew Ledger, president of the CUPE 1004 union, which represents Fair workers.

"We are deeply concerned about the thousands of CUPE members that depend on the Fair each summer to pay their way through school or to help support their families."

No large events at all, PHO says

Large summer events of any kind are not on the table for B.C. this summer, according to health officials. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said small outdoor events might be possible, if the vaccination program stays on track, but large gatherings are not.

"I can say there is not likely to be big events of any sort, even outdoors, through this summer and into the fall and winter of next year," Henry said Monday.

The annual Celebration of Light fireworks competition and Pride festivities in Vancouver were also cancelled this week.

After the Fair at the PNE was cancelled last year, the exhibition ran a modified drive-thru event for guests to experience the traditional sights, sounds and snacks from their vehicles.

A dog jumps over an obstacle while guests watch from their vehicles during the 2020 PNE, which was heavily modified to allow some traditional attractions to be experienced in a physically distanced way. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In its statement Wednesday, the exhibition said it "expects further announcements about plans to connect with our guests in ways other than our traditional in-person Fair in coming months."

The opening of Playland was postponed from last weekend until late May over concerns it would attract out-of-town visitors while travel restrictions are still in effect.

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