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L.A. Beat

Exhibition Park board considers post Covid-19 future for Whoop Up Days and farmer’s market

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Though organizers had high hopes the show would go on, Whoop Up Days is the latest festival to fall to government Covid-19 socially distancing measures.Fans enjoying Whoop up Days entertainment last year. photo by Richard Amery
 “ We thought that because we were the last show of the summer before the midway moved to B.C. for their festival season beginning in Armstrong, that we would be able to continue, but we had a feeling,” said Exhibition Park CEO Rudy Friesen who officially made the announcement on Friday, April 24.

“ We’ve put on a festival every year since 1897, though it started as a fall festival. To my knowledge, the only time it was cancelled was during the First World War when the park was used for infantry training and during the Second World War when the grounds were used as an internment camp of some sort,” he said, adding they started scaling down preparations as soon as Covid 19 hit, while doing their best to remain optimistic.

“It used to be a fall fair in October which celebrated the end of harvest,” he said adding originally Whoop Up Days combined Aggie Days, the home and garden show, the rodeo, farmer’s market and several others which have evolved into very successful individual events.

“The Fair has evolved. And now looking at the vacant grounds, it’s really eerie,” he observed, adding they likely won’t bring back the fall fair.

 Setting aside Whoop Up Days’ massive financial contribution to the community, estimated at $5 million going into the community each summer, Friesen said the most significant loss is the social aspect to the community.

 “Whoop Up Days is a great social gathering and an opportunity for the community to get together. You really miss that social interaction during a pandemic,” he added.

He noted the board and volunteers were just starting the major foot work for the festival. A lot of that was evaluating all of the changes from last year.

“The way the cycle at the beginning of the fair, you start thinking about next year. Our planning for 2020 will carry over to 2021,” he said.

 “ We‘d just began discussions with bands but no contracts had been signed,” he said, adding the board was still in the process of evaluating all of the changes to security and the grounds from last year.

Stilt walkers were among the on site entertainment at Whoop up Days last year. Photo by Richard Amery
“ So we’ll continue evaluating them for 2021,” he said.

 They are also still considering  the future for the weekly farmer’s markets.

“We’re 100 per cent concerned with the safety of our vendors and patrons. So we‘re taking things on a week to week basis. We’re considering crowds and the two metre distancing requirements,” he said, adding they won’t proceed until they can completely satisfy the new Covid 19 regulations.

“The Alberta Health Services decision is one that we fully support, as it is in the best interest of the health and safety of the residents of our community. Even though we are in the business of mass gatherings, now is not the time,” Friesen noted in Friday’s press release.

“Furthermore, as a result of Dr. Hinshaw’s announcement, Exhibition Park facilities remain closed to the public and all scheduled on-site summer events/gatherings are being either cancelled or postponed to a future date. One potential exception is Farmers’ Market. The food portion of the Market is considered by the Province to be an essential service. As such, potential iterations of a weekly food-only Market are being examined. Our current efforts focus on whether we can provide this service while still adhering to all restrictions currently in place, including the limit on gatherings of 15 people, maintaining a two metre distance, etc. Further details will be announced in the coming weeks. ”

—  By Richard Amery, L.A. beat Editor
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 28 April 2020 15:54 )  
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