The fall round of prairie agricultural fairs is back under provincial COVID-19 orders and restrictions.
Manitoba Ag Ex is scheduled for this week, with a requirement that all exhibitors and visitors be fully vaccinated.
The Lloydminster Stockade Roundup, which is scheduled for November 2-6, and Red Deer’s Agri-Trade, Farm Fair in Edmonton and Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, which are all scheduled for later in November, will accept full proof of vaccination or a test. negative within 72 hours of entry.
In Red Deer and Edmonton, rapid tests will be available on site for a fee.
Masks are mandatory indoors in all public spaces in the three provinces, but not for young children.
Agribition chief executive Chris Lane said the 50th anniversary show would be different than organizers had hoped, but it would be safe.
“We have created an Agribition system that allows us to comply with public health orders,” he said last week. “The easiest and most applicable way to comply with this order is that we have created a vaccine control or negative test control that will occur at all points of entry on the property.”
Exhibitors, staff and volunteers who are fully vaccinated and will be at the show all week will have bracelets once they have been checked, which will ease the strain on admission doors, he said.
But he advised anyone attending a fall show to arrive early to account for the extra time it takes to show proof of vaccination and valid ID.
Participants who test negative and plan to attend more than one six-day event will need more than one test to accommodate the 72-hour window.
Agribition intends to provide more seating than usual where visitors can safely remove their masks to eat and drink.
Lane said the goal is to make things as easy as possible for everyone.
Last year, most shows held some type of virtual event instead of live shows. Provincial health orders have changed several times since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and now allow gatherings to take place.
Lane said event planners worked together to determine best practices and how to fit different groups into orders.
“What works for the exhibitors is not necessarily what it takes for the people who come to the rodeo,” he observed.
The logistical challenge of staying on top of the evolution of orders means that Agribition has had to build and update several different COVID plans.
“The good thing about all of this is that we spent a lot of time thinking about it,” Lane said. “It’s as secure a system as it gets. I’m confident of it.”
A major casualty of public health orders is the recorded school program which typically brings about 9,000 students to the show during the week. Lane said the decision to cancel was both easy and difficult, given that many children were not eligible for the vaccination, but knowing how much schools value the educational experience.
There are still many family activities that people can choose from, depending on their own level of comfort. One of the arenas will remain an ice rink and families will be able to come in for free skating during the week of the show, he said.
Agribition represents a meeting place for several members of the agricultural community. Lane said getting together is important for mental health and that the show makes that easy.
Meanwhile, admissions are down this year.
“We’re probably sitting around 1,200 head of halter cattle on the purebred side and 2,500 animals in total,” Lane said. “It’s less than before, but not considerably less.”
The living room will also be smaller. Lane said supply chain issues are an issue for some companies that typically participate in it.
The show is scheduled to take place November 22-27.
One building that visitors will not enter this year is the one named after the show. The Regina Exhibition Association Ltd. announced earlier that the Agribition building will be converted into a distillery, educational fermentation lab and restaurant. The YQR Distillery intends to honor the history of the building with the name Agribition Commons.
Lane said the show is a stakeholder on the site and does not oppose development as long as the show is still serviced.
The Royal Winter Fair in Toronto has been canceled for the second year in a row.
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