Major event cancellations taking toll on Lethbridge economy

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Major event cancellations taking toll on Lethbridge economic status
WATCH ABOVE: Exhibition Park recently announced it would be postponing its major spring events due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. As Quinn Campbell reports, these big events not only bring people to Exhibition Park, but to local restaurants, hotels and tourist destinations. – Jan 27, 2021

Exhibition Park is postponing its early 2021 events due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

“Obviously our hand is a little bit forced,” Mike Warkentin, the chief operating officer for Exhibition Park, said.

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He added health and safety has to be the number one priority, but said they also know many businesses and organizations depend on their venue.

All those vendor transactions trickle into the community, adding millions to the local economy.

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“In an average year we were generating in upwards of $70 million to $75 million of economic impact, we do anticipate that to be significantly down,” Warkentin said.

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Trevor Lewington with Economic Development Lethbridge said that the impact of the event cancellations will likely be felt widely in the community.

“Any of these events — whether its at Exhibition Park or anywhere else in the city — these are people that come to the city and buy meals, they potentially go to the mall and spend money in a retail store, they are often staying at a hotel,” Lewington said.

He said seeing major events delayed or cancelled slows down the whole flow of the economy.

“It’s the deals that happen during those shows, it’s the sales transactions, that’s the larger economic impact.

“You are bringing together vendors and potential customers and so, as those events get cancelled or postponed, you are also delaying some of those interactions.”

Hannah Lee with Sill and Soil is a Lethbridge business owner and past vendor at the Home and Garden Show, one of the events that has been postponed.  She is giving other businesses without a storefront the chance to set up in her shop during COVID-19 while things like markets are on hold.

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“It’s a really anxious feeling knowing, like what do I do with all of this stock, should I sell it, or do I stay prepared and ready to go at the drop of a hat. So it’s such a stressful feeling for sure,” added Lee.

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She also said postponing can be hard for vendors trying to juggle inventory, but it’s usually a better option than cancelling. That’s something the exhibition is hoping to avoid.

“We are very cautiously optimistic things will open up a little bit and we will be able to run these events and get the nearly 600 small businesses through the park in a safe and responsible way,” Warkentin said.

He added they are taking a “wait and see” approach before announcing any further delays or cancellations.

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