Fate of fairs, exhibitions uncertain as mass gatherings cancelled

WINNIPEG — As more and more mass gatherings continue to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one charity is worried about the future of fairs and exhibitions.

The Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions (CAFE) is asking the federal government to provide funding for its industry, including agricultural societies, seasonal entertainers, vendors and suppliers.

The association, which represents around 700 fairs and agricultural societies in Canada, said it is worried for these non-profits that already face challenges.

“Our industry is in a unique position,” said CAFE president Amanda Frigon in a news release. “Every day this pandemic continues, and mass gatherings are cancelled, is another day that cuts into our short season.”

Frigon noted there will be little chance of recovery if events continue to get cancelled.

According to CAFE, the season for fairs and exhibitions usually runs from May to October, and therefore organizations might not have the opportunity to rebuild resources once the pandemic is over.

It notes there are also hundreds of service providers such as entertainers, vendors and concessionaires who aren’t eligible for the federal initiatives created due to COVID-19.

“The health and safety of Canadians is of the utmost importance, and we are in full support of the governments announced initiatives,” said Frigon, adding the association wants the government to make sure their industry isn’t overlooked in the economic response.

CAFE said if the organizations it represents are shutdown it will hurt rural economies, agricultural education, the ability to build public trust in agriculture, civic engagement and community development.

“Even after mass gatherings are permitted again, we are seriously concerned about the decreasing consumer confidence in the safety of mass gatherings, and so look to the government for support in rebuilding confidence,” said Frigon.