Agribition officials satisfied despite dip in visitors, profits

Profit and attendance were both down at Canadian Western Agribition last year, but organizers say they’re happy, considering the challenges the show faced.

“2016 was the year of change,” chief executive officer Chris Lane said at last week’s annual meeting.

It was his first year as CEO, the show had only partial use of the new International Trade Centre, it was the last year for Exhibition Stadium and pro rodeo returned.

“That is a lot of new for any organization,” he said.

The show turned a profit from operations of $745,852, down nearly $100,000. Attendance was 124,000, down from 130,200.

Lane said those numbers are on par with recent years.

“I look far more at five, six, seven year trends from a revenue and attendance point of view rather than dips and valleys,” he said.

A couple of records were set last year: 8,000 students were registered through the education program and more than 25,000 people attended the pro rodeo and jousting events.

Livestock sales totalled $2.9 million, down from $3.4 million last year, but still the second highest in years. International attendance was up, and sales totalled $500,000.

“Those buyers did more business at the 2016 show than they have done in the last four years combined,” Lane said.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said the economic spinoff of $56 million is great for the province.

“Twelve hundred international guests last year, that’s incredible, and it’s an incredible economic opportunity for not only the agricultural industry but other Saskatchewan businesses,” he told reporters.

Organizers are working on events that will attract more people who might not ordinarily attend an agricultural fair. Lane said the popularity of last year’s running with the bulls event surprised him.

“We’re trying to put together kind of a high adrenalin schedule for Saturday,” he said.

Outgoing president Stewart Stone said Agribition needs to change as agriculture and the urban world change.

“We’ve been working hard at making sure we adapt,” he said, adding the show will try to engage the urban community more.

Stone has spent 12 years on the board and said the facilities are almost all different now.

“It’s remarkable what they’ve done on these grounds,” he said. “The (new) facilities actually change what we can do, and it opens up all new opportunities for us.”

Lane said many people are interested in the story of how their food is raised and prepared, and show programming will continue to expand on that theme.

“On the livestock side, the reputation of Agribition is as good as it’s ever been and only growing,” he said.

The 2017 show runs Nov. 20-25.

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