Canadian Western Agribition holding out hope for November event
'We really do need to commit to the planning and, I think, commit to the optimism,' says Agribition CEO
Saskatchewan's agriculture community has had to cancel many farming exhibitions and fairs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Canadian Western Agribition is still making plans to hold its 50th exhibition in November.
Chris Lane, CEO of Agribition, said the organization has time on its side as its event at Evraz Place in Regina isn't scheduled until November.
Other farming exhibitions like the Western Farm Progress Show, which was set to run in June, and the Prairieland Junior Ag Showcase, which was set to run in July, are postponed until 2021.
Lane said Agribition is a complex and large event, so organizers have to start planning it now.
The farm show is considered a large public gathering event. These are included in the fifth and final phase of Saskatchewan's reopening plan. There is not yet a projected date for when they will be allowed.
Lane said Agribition will listen to public health officials and the government for when it is safe to have an event of its size.
"But we really do need to commit to the planning and, I think, commit to the optimism around the idea that at some point one day events like the exhibition will be on the docket again," said Lane.
Agricultural show ecosystem
Lane said agriculture shows are an important link to the business of farming in Saskatchewan.
He said exhibitions like Agribition are more than entertaining and educational, they are marketplaces for producers to either directly sell their products or do business connected to farming, like making deals for crop inputs or buying farming machinery.
"That's why we feel there's a bit of an obligation to make sure that if we're allowed to go, we're ready," Lane said.
He said Agribition will consider virtual options as they get close to the November exhibition date.
Lane said he understands that once physical distancing rules are lifted, many consumers will have lost confidence in the safety of mass gatherings. He said he believes that strict safety measures will help restore confidence in consumers.
Concerns over future of fairs and exhibitions
The Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions (CAFE) is requesting financial support from the government, as thousands of shows across Canada have been cancelled.
Christina Franc, executive director of CAFE, said the cancellations pose a severe risk to the future of fairs and exhibitions. About 5,000 events set to run across Canada by the end of June have been cancelled to date.
"This is going to hurt the community vitality, specifically in rural economy," said Franc.
"It's going to hurt the small local print shop, it's going to hurt the restaurants and the hotels ... So it's really a systematic risk that is going to have a negative effect on the whole community. It's not just the fair or the exhibition."
Franc says CAFE is looking for a federal stabilization fund in the short-term, and longer wage subsidies and grant opportunities to help hold over fairs and exhibitions until 2021.