One of Western Canada’s biggest agricultural shows and a central Alberta fall tradition has been cancelled this year.
Agri-Trade Equipment Expo was to run Nov. 11 to 13 at Westerner Park, but the turmoil created by the pandemic and the health restrictions it spawned led organizers to make the tough decision to postpone the show until next year.
“With so many concerns around the current situation with COVID-19, many companies have implemented restricted travel policies,” said Agri-Trade show manager David Fiddler.
“With a significant number of companies having to cancel, we felt that the show would not be representative of the Agri-Trade brand. This was not a decision that was made lightly. We left no stone unturned as we were making this decision.”
Added Rick More, CEO of the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce: “We know that in a normal year, millions of dollars of business takes place and almost $300 million in economic impact is created as a direct result of the show.”
Westerner Park CEO Mike Olesen said they did their best to make Agri-Trade a go.
Only two weeks ago, Westerner Park announced the show, which generates $50 million in tourism spending alone and drew nearly 30,000 visitors last year, would go on.
Plans had already been drawn up to allow for more physical distancing, including one-way traffic flow, multiple entrances, wider aisles and more separation between vendors.
A number of interactive displays were also planned, so customers could talk to vendors remotely.
However, there was just too much uncertainty from exhibitors and other stakeholders to stage a successful event, he said.
“As we monitor the environment and the ongoing challenges and feedback from exhibitors and stakeholders, we feel that the risks outweigh the reward in pushing forward this year.”
Agri-Trade has run since 1984 as a joint venture between Westerner Park and the chamber of commerce.
Red Deer hotelier Vimal Pillay was not surprised the event was cancelled.
“It was kind of expected the way things are going,” said Pillay, who is general manager of the Ramada By Wyndham Red Deer Hotel and Suites at 6853 66th St.
Local hotels will feel the loss of business in what has already been a difficult year, said Pillay.
“(Agri-Trade) has always helped the hotels in Red Deer in general,” he said. “It’s a busy week when that happens, so the hotels are going to feel a little more pinch.”
Since pandemic health restrictions hit the hospitality industry hard in the spring and summer, business has improved a little, but it remains “up and down,” he said.
Recently, it was announced the World Junior Hockey Championship, which was to run this December in Edmonton and Red Deer, will be held in a bubble in the provincial capital. The championship will return to the two cities next year.
The Canadian Finals Rodeo planned for Nov. 3 to 8 also pulled out this year because of COVID-19.
The WHL and Red Deer Rebels plan to play a complete 68-game season beginning in December. The Rebels recently signed a seven-year lease with Westerner Park to continue playing at the Centrium.