The Alberta government has given the OK for indoor trade shows and exhibits to go ahead, if they follow a list of guidelines. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)

The Alberta government has given the OK for indoor trade shows and exhibits to go ahead, if they follow a list of guidelines. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)

Indoor trade shows and exhibits returning a positive sign

Alberta’s easing of restrictions meant to stem the spread of COVID-19 includes the return of indoor trade shows and exhibits.

That’s good news for Red Deer, which traditionally hosts a number of trade shows, including the Agri-Trade Equipment Expo.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, says that after studying other jurisdictions that have reopened such activities — including in Alberta, where outdoor farmer’s markets and similar events have been allowed — it was found the events don’t seem to be large spreaders of the virus.

Rick More, CEO of the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce, has had meetings with government officials over the past several weeks, where he outlined the importance of such events.

In talks with area MLAs Jason Stephen, Adrianna LaGrange and Devin Dreeshen, More emphasized that Agri-Trade, which happens in November, typically brings in $250 million a year to central Alberta businesses and the western Canadian agriculture sector.

“We became proactive and shared our comprehensive plan for the cautionary procedures that strictly align with health regulations,” More said on Friday.

“We have received 80 per cent registration from exhibitors, displaying their importance of attendance and the success for survival for 2020 and 2021. This relieves a lot of pressure moving forward and will be a positive decision to show optimism.”

Agri-Trade is a huge draw for the farming community, last year attracting nearly 30,000 qualified attendees and 475 equipment manufactures. It typically takes place at Westerner Park.

Westerner Park CEO Mike Olesen still wants to see a few more details before he gets too excited about the government’s announcement, but said moving forward with indoor exhibits and trade shows is extremely positive.

“We are appreciative of the confidence the Alberta government has shown in our ability to manage crowds safely,” Olesen said.

“There are more details to be determined before we know how large a show we may host. But we are progressing and that is great news. We will be ready for whatever opportunities are available.”

Hinshaw did not provide many details in her announcement, and on the government’s online guidelines for trade shows and exhibits, there is no official attendance number stated.

Currently, the government says that indoor gatherings with a non-seated audience can only have up to 50 people.

The guidelines ask vendors to clean and disinfect regularly and discourage attendees from handling products and self-testing items before purchasing.

Venues also need to ask patrons to stay two metres apart when possible. Booths and stalls need to be set up with social distancing in mind.

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