THE BATTLEFORDS - The annual Battlefords Business Excellence Awards gala are being postponed for 2021.
The vote to postpone the annual event passed at the Battlefords Chamber of Commerce board of directors meeting on Tuesday night. The decision was then announced publicly by the Chamber on Wednesday.
“It indeed was a difficult discussion and ultimately a difficult decision,” said Chamber Chief Operating Officer Linda Machniak in a statement.
The intention is to return in the fall 2022 with a revitalized gala with possibly some new categories added.
The decision comes as a surprise, as the chamber had been able to push forward with most of its annual events over the past year in spite of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, while adapting to the new rules and health protocols.
The main stumbling block for this year’s BBEX, though not the only one, has been the continued uncertainty due to COVID-19 - not just for organizers but for local businesses as well.
Rising case numbers are the main concern for the chamber. The province recently announced it was re-imposing indoor mask mandates, and imposing a proof of vaccination program for event venues and elsewhere as of Oct. 1.
Chamber Chief Operating Officer Linda Machniak said that there had been a meeting of the co-chairs of the BBEX committee to discuss what to do.
“There’s been a lot of uncertainty, I would say, around some of the aspects of what the BBEX program would be,” said Machniak at the meeting.
A major issue organizers faced included figuring out a venue to use: whether to go back to the Dekker Centre for their traditional awards format, or whether to do another “BBEX Goes to the Movies,” which went ahead in 2021 under tight pandemic restrictions and protocols at the Capitol Theatre.
Timelines for putting on an awards gala for this year would have been tight, but Machniak indicated at the meeting that they could have conceivably put something together in time for Dec. 1.
Even if that hurdle was overcome, another issue raised at Tuesday’s meeting was concern about how stressed businesses were at the present time in dealing with COVID-19. This was the biggest stumbling block in the end.
“With so much uncertainty for business today on other issues facing them, with COVID, vaccines, rapid testing, staffing and consumer confidence, it would be difficult to ask them to take the time out to complete the application process required to ensure the greatest success in the program,” Machniak said in a statement.
In the end, the BBEX committee has agreed to postpone the event to the fall of 2022. While uncertainty is the main driver of the decision, the BBEX committee also sees an opportunity to perhaps “reset,” as Machniak put it at the meeting, and implement some long-discussed updates to the program for its return.
The indication from Tuesday’s meeting is these would not be wholesale changes, as the gala itself is seen by the board as hitting the mark as a celebration of business in the Battlefords. But next year’s awards show could include some new categories that could recognize non-profits or other worthy recipients.
The board did indicate they were interested in finding alternative ways in the meantime to showcase businesses that had shone during COVID-19. There was talk about producing a video to highlight those businesses, and those could be incorporated into the Chamber’s regular “Monday Minutes”. At this point, the plans are not finalized.
As well, despite the postponement of the gala show, the Stan Wychopen Memorial BBEX scholarship will still be awarded for 2021. It is awarded annually to a student from the Battlefords enrolled in the business program at North West College.