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In-person fall farm shows begin

Agricultural shows across the prairies are back this fall.
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Canadian Western Agribition organizers say they have confidence in the vaccine rollout plans and believe time is on their side. The show is scheduled to be held live Nov. 22-27.
WESTERN PRODUCER — The fall round of prairie agricultural shows has returned under provincial COVID-19 orders and restrictions.

Manitoba Ag Ex is planned for this week, with a requirement that all exhibitors and visitors be fully vaccinated.

The Lloydminster Stockade Roundup, which is slated for Nov. 2-6, and Red Deer's Agri-Trade, Farm Fair in Edmonton and Canadian Western Agribition in Regina, which are all scheduled for later in November, will accept proof of full vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of entry.

At Red Deer and Edmonton, rapid tests will be available on site for a cost.

Masks are required indoors in all public spaces in all three provinces, although not for young children.

Agribition chief executive officer Chris Lane said the 50th anniversary show will look different than organizers had hoped but it will be safe.

"We've created an Agribition system that allows us to comply with the public health orders," he said last week. "The easiest and most applicable way to comply with that order is, we've created a vaccine check or negative test check that's going to happen at all points of entry on to the property."

Exhibitors, staff and volunteers who are fully vaccinated and will be at the show all week will have wrist bands once they've been checked, which will take pressure off the admission gates, he said.

But he advised anyone attending a fall show to arrive early to account for the extra time it takes to show proof of vaccination and valid identification.

Attendees who opt for the negative test and who are planning to attend more than one of the six-day event will require more than one test to account for the 72-hour window.

Agribition intends to provide more seating areas than usual where visitors can safely remove their masks to eat and drink.

Lane said the goal is to make it as easy as possible for everybody.

Last year, most shows held some type of virtual event in the place of live shows. Provincial health orders have changed several times since the pandemic began in March 2020 and now allow the gatherings to go ahead.

Lane said event organizers have worked together to figure out best practices and how to fit different groups into the orders.

"What works for exhibitors is not necessarily how it needs to work for people coming to the rodeo," he observed.

The logistical challenge of staying on top of the changing orders means Agribition has had to build and update several different COVID plans.

"The benefit of all that is we've spent a lot of time thinking about this," Lane said. "It's as safe a system as we can possibly deliver. I'm confident in that."

A significant casualty of the public health orders is the registered school program that typically brings about 9,000 students to the show during the week. Lane said the decision to cancel that was both easy and difficult, given that many of the children weren't eligible for vaccination but knowing how much schools value the educational experience.

There are still many family activities that people can choose, based on their own comfort level. One of the arenas will remain an ice rink and families will be able to come for a free skate during the show week, he said.

Agribition represents a meeting place for many in the farming community. Lane said getting together is important for mental health and going ahead with the show facilitates that.

Meanwhile, entries are down this year.

"We're probably sitting at about 1,200 head of haltered cattle on the purebred side, and 2,500 animals overall," said Lane. "That's less than it has been but not dramatically less."

The trade show will also be smaller. Lane said supply chain issues are a problem for some businesses that typically attend.

The show is scheduled to go ahead Nov. 22-27.

One building that visitors won't be entering this year is the one that bears the show's name. The Regina Exhibition Association Ltd. earlier announced the Agribition Building will be converted to a distillery, fermentation lab for teaching, and a restaurant. YQR Distillery intends to honour the building's history with the name Agribition Commons.

Lane said the show is a stakeholder on the site and isn't opposed to development as long as the show is still served.

The Royal Winter Fair in Toronto has been cancelled for the second year in a row.