Plans for an all-outdoor Westerner Days are being considered after Alberta Premier Jason Kenney warned that COVID-19 restrictions will continue into the summer.
Kenny’s announcement this week that summer events cannot run as usual didn’t come as a surprise to Mike Olesen, CEO of Westerner Park.
“We are working with the assumption there will be restrictions,” said Olesen.
But he remains cautiously optimistic that some kind of fair can happen if adaptations can be made.
For instance, Westerner Days organizers are considering whether most of the events can happen outside.
Olesen believes there’s room to spread out the midway and food booths — and even to have some wide-open outdoor concert spaces.
Crowds would have to be reduced to ensure that people could physically distance at the fair, but Olesen said the idea of extending Westerner Days beyond the Sunday is being explored so that more people could attend.
He anticipates there will be big public interest in attending the fair, with so much pent-up demand for fun events.
No one is yet sure of how agriculture events at the fair could be handled. Olesen said, “We will be looking at all livestock events happening differently and making maximum use of space.”
“We’re not flush with working capital,” he admitted, so investing in outdoor tents and other supplies would not be possible at this time of uncertainty.
While some special events at Westerner Park, such as the Our Best To You Show, were postponed from last fall and are tentatively booked to run this spring, Olesen said the jury is still out on whether they can go ahead, based on provincial restrictions.
He’s taking heart, however, that Albertans have “bent the curve,” in the words of Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Deena Hinshaw, and brought down the number of daily COVID cases.
If they continue to stay low he’s hoping some of Westerner Park events will be able to go ahead in the later spring or summer.