Event cancellations threaten the future of rural fairs

Judge Emma Robertson addresses participants in the dairy calf show and spectators at the 165th Sydenham Fall Fair at Eastridge Community School on Thursday, September 20, 2018 in Owen Sound, Ont. The fair is one of the last school-based fairs in Canada. Rob Gowan/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network Rob Gowan / Rob Gowan/Sun Times

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The Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions (CAFE) says it’s extremely worried for the future of Canada’s century-old non-profit organizations that are already facing significant challenges.

Cancellations of mass events because of COVID are cutting into the season of more than 700 agricultural societies, fairs and exhibitions across Canada.

Amanda Frigon, president of CAFE, warns “there will be no chance of recovery as more and more events get canceled.”

The season generally runs from May to October and so, unlike other businesses and non-profits, these organizations will not have a chance to rebuild their resources once the pandemic is determined to be over. Not only will the organizations that run these events be unable to recover, but the same can be said for hundreds of Canadian service providers including entertainers, vendors and concessionaires who are otherwise ineligible for many of the federal measures already announced, CAFÉ says in a press release.

“The health and safety of Canadians is of the utmost importance, and we are in full support of the governments announced initiatives” says Frigon, “but we are urgently asking that the government ensure that our industry isn’t an ‘unintended consequence’ or overlooked as part of the government’s economic response to COVID-19.”