One of the biggest events of the summer in Red Deer is holding out hope they can go forward this year.
Westerner Park CEO Mike Olsen said the organization is working on multiple plans for this summer’s version of Westerner Days Fair and Exhibition, depending on the state of the pandemic.
“It’s an event we still want to maintain, it’s core to what we do. That said, we’re also not kidding ourselves that at best it may be held in a modified manner,” he said.
“Let’s make some assumptions around restrictions and leave ourselves enough flexibility to ramp up or cancel if that is unfortunately a reality.”
He said they are meeting regularly, discussing all kinds of creative ways to deliver the event in 2022, after it was cancelled outright last year, during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak in Alberta.
Olsen added they’ve engaged with different groups, including the Calgary Stampede and other fairs in North America, to find unique solutions to the problems they face this summer.
“What we have been doing and can do is just ensure that planning is done well so we can adjust and pivot if we have the opportunity, which we hope we do,” he said.
While Olsen said they are hopeful, he indicated that it doesn’t look good for a lot of the indoor exhibitions and displays they host during the festival – outdoor gatherings like the midway present a bit more optimism.
“The core to Westerner Days is the midway and that being an outdoor event, there’s more possibility with it. One of the major assumptions within that, is significantly reduced crowd sizes,” he said.
When it does run, the fair and exhibition has a major impact on the economy of Red Deer and the surrounding area. In a normal year, it’s estimated in excess of $7 million. Of that total, approximately $5 million is spent by visitors, exhibitors, and contractors in Red Deer and area.
Westerner Park made the decision to cancel the 124th running of the event in April of last year. It was only the fourth time in the 128-year history of the event that it was canceled.
Upwards of 90,796 people attended Westerner Days in 2019, including a record-breaking 29,453 in a single day.