Farmfair managers are adamant the show will carry on for years to come as they continued to ease ranchers’ concerns over the event’s viability once the rodeo gets a new home.
Suzanne Bielert, the agriculture event manager for Northlands, said Farmfair will stay at Northlands for the “foreseeable future,” noting there has been a 15 percent jump in cattle numbers this year.
“The final cattle number last year was 853 and we are well over 1,000,” she said.
“We’re not going anywhere, and we don’t plan to go down in numbers. We’re hoping to go up.”
However, she acknowledged things will change once the Canadian Finals Rodeo moves to a new venue next year.
CFR organizers said in October that they might keep the event in Edmonton but aren’t ruling out other cities as an option.
During Farmfair Nov. 8-12, breeders and buyers were thinking about how the CFR’s move might affect them.
David Vikse, who markets his Red Angus cattle, said he wishes the CFR and Farmfair could remain joined at the hip.
He suggested breeders might take a financial hit if the events aren’t side by side.
“Let’s call it what it is. People come to the rodeo and then come to Farmfair,” he said.
“So, with the CFR not right next door, we’re not going to get the foot traffic. It’s a special little deal, so it’s going to hurt them as much as it’s going to hurt us.”
Gordon Graves, who’s a delegate with Alberta Beef Producers and represents northern Alberta, agreed that fewer people might come to Farmfair because of the rodeo being elsewhere.
Having fewer people means having fewer city dwellers come to Farmfair, and he said that’s not good.
“It’s their exposure to where their food comes from, and if we don’t have that interaction, then we as producers lose credibility,” he said.
“And, through that, we lose some of our social license.”
As well, Edmonton could take a hit economically by losing the CFR, he added.
“If the ag sectors, the city and urban municipalities don’t come together and realize this is mutually beneficial for both of us, everybody is going to lose.”
Both the CFR and Farmfair bring in about $50 million annually to the city, according to numbers from Northlands.
Bielert said organizers might adjust Farmfair’s scheduling and programming depending on where the CFR goes.
“With the Coliseum going to be closed, things are going to change,” she said.
“But until we know what that looks like, we can’t speak to those changes on how they are going to impact us.”
City of Edmonton planners are drafting redevelopment plans for the Northlands site, after it took over the area earlier this year in exchange for paying Northlands’ $48.7 million debt.
It’s anticipated the city will release redevelopment plans in early 2018.
In the meantime, Bielert said Northlands is working with the city to sign a five or 10 year lease to operate Farmfair at the Expo Centre.
“That’s pretty significant, so it gives us some stability in us moving forward,” she said.
“We’ve been very clear that parts of the (Northlands site) and the facility are important to us and our programming. We’re hopeful that nothing will change too significantly in terms of those spaces.”