Cancellation of winter fair a multimillion-dollar blow to local economy: Brandon mayor

By | March 21, 2020

The cancellation of the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair is being called a significant blow to the city of Brandon’s local economy.

The organizer of the fair, which started in 1906 and was slated to run March 30 to April 4 this year, said it has only been cancelled twice before — once during war years and a second time in 1952, when there were concerns over animal health.

Organizers announced on March 12 that it will not go forward this year, making it one of the many events cancelled over concerns of COVID-19, as Manitoba health officials warn people not to gather in large groups.

“It’s a cultural, social fabric of our community,” said Ron Kristjansson, the general manager of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba, which puts on the event.

Every year, thousands of visitors and competitors from across Canada and the United States come out to the event, which features world-class equestrian, cattle and dog shows.

There are hundreds of horses, cows, jugglers, clowns and a lot of farmers who talk to attendees about the food they produce.

Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest said the impact will be in the millions to the local economy. (Camille Gris Roy/CBC)

City restaurants and hotels fill up for the six-day event.

A study on the event five years ago found its economic impact was close to $15 million, said Kristjansson.

“The ripples through your community are huge. The ripples through our organization are incredible. This is our event that sets the pace for a whole year.”

It was already clear to organizers last week that the event, expected to draw 100,000 people, would have to cancelled. 

Watch this 2013 story on the fair:

The 106th Royal Manitoba Winter Fair started Monday in Brandon with heavy horse competitions, show jumping and livestock sales. 2:08

Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest said the fair is one of his city’s hallmarks and also serves as an important networking event for those who work in agriculture.

He said this year would have marked the 50th anniversary of the event, thereby attaining royal status.

“The winter fair fills up all the hotel rooms in our city, makes most of the restaurants quite busy, the retail scene busy, so it will certainly have a multimillion-dollar economic impact.”

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