Due to the lingering pandemic, concerns about possible future restrictions and concerns over the virus itself, the Western Fair Association’s Board of Governors and its management team say they made the decision to scrap this year’s fair and plan for next year’s.
The 2021 edition of the fair, the 146th overall, had been slated to run from Sept. 10 to 19.
In a statement, CEO Reg Ash called the decision “tremendously difficult.” Organizers noted that while it was encouraging to see the province enter its three-step reopening plan, “the timing of it makes it impossible to plan and execute the traditional” fair.
“Given the current timelines, we felt this was the right decision in consideration of the health and safety of our staff and community as well as the uncertainty that exists around when, and to what extent, mass gatherings will be permitted at that time,” Ash said.
“While we may have been permitted to run some elements of the fair, we will not be able to produce the Western Fair the way in which we have been entrusted to do so by our community, and those that built it.”
The COVID-19 pandemic also led to the cancellation of last year’s Western Fair, marking the first time since the Second World War that the fair ceased operation.
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A virtual Western Fair was held in its place by way of an augmented reality app, online contests, and “Fair Food Boxes” delivered to people’s doors.
Similar plans appear to be in the works for this year’s cancelled fair, with some online and in-person offerings.
Organizers say the 2021 Creative Arts competition and the annual Rise 2 Fame youth talent competition will both be online this year.
Meanwhile, the Western Fair District’s “Park It at the Market” night-market, which is scheduled to run twice a week for the next several months, will take on a fair theme for the month of September. Fair Food Boxes are also being brought back.
More information will be made public in the coming weeks, organizers said, and refunds will be issued to those who purchased advanced tickets for the now-cancelled fair. Patrons should be reimbursed by July 31, they said.
Fairs and exhibitions, which rely on large crowds, have been among the industries hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A full recovery for the sector isn’t expected until next summer, according to the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions.
In a recent media release, the association reported that roughly 83 per cent of fair and exhibitions organizations had been unable to take advantage of federal supports, and that at least 32 per cent were at risk of closing within the next 12 months if no changes are made.