Ag exhibition’s expansion plans put on hold

The Lloydminster Agricultural Exhibition Association has lost 90 percent of its revenue due to the pandemic, forcing it to lay off 17 out of 25 full-time staff.  | Photo supllied by Jackie Tomayer

A provincial grant helps Lloydminster association buy land for proposed expansion, but COVID has caused hardship

As it faces the ongoing economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lloydminster Agricultural Exhibition Association is biding its time about expanding on to land that will be partly paid for by an Alberta provincial grant.

“The association is at significant risk if the pandemic continues for another 10 to 12 months, but we are optimistic that we will be able to operate to some capacity as early as two to three months from now,” assistant general manager Jackie Tomayer said in an email.

“We realize that large group gatherings are a ways away yet, but we are hopeful smaller-sized functions will soon be allowable business and we can once again host weddings and smaller functions to help us survive.”

In the meantime, unnecessary expenses have been trimmed.

“We have done all we can and are now just trying to survive to the next month,” she said.

A recently announced provincial grant of $1 million will join a further $1 million from the City of Lloydminster to help pay for about 50 acres of land the association has wanted to buy for years, said Tomayer in an interview.

The city-owned property is to the north of the association’s current facilities, paving the way for a potential expansion that is otherwise blocked on the other three sides due to residential housing and a golf course, she said.

Due to concerns the land could be snapped up by developers, the association had applied about three times to the Alberta government to help pay for the property as far back as seven years ago, she said.

“Everyone has to do business nowadays, so definitely I’m sure if somebody came in with a couple million dollars, the city would have had to have looked at it and then we wouldn’t have any options. We wouldn’t have had any options for future generations to expand services and facilities here at all.”

The border between Alberta and Saskatchewan passes through Lloydminster, with the association on the latter side.

“As a bi-provincial city in our charter, it states that we are equally a part of Alberta as Saskatchewan regardless of where we are physically located within the city,” she said in the email.

Funding was available through Alberta’s Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP), “so that’s where we went,” she said.

The association, founded in 1903, has lost about 90 percent of its revenue due to the pandemic, forcing it to lay off 17 out of 25 full-time staff.

Much of the association’s business typically consists of agricultural events such as bull and cattle sales, along with the annual Agri-Visions show and the Stockade Roundup, which is billed as one of Canada’s premier livestock events.

A study in 2014 showed the association had an annual economic impact of $47 million per year on Lloydminster, “so yeah, we are definitely an economic driver for this city, and very important,” said Tomayer during the interview.

But the pandemic forced the cancellation of roughly 90 percent of the association’s events, including the annual Lloyd Ex Fair, she said. The association typically hosts about 800 events per year, ranging from car and trade shows to weddings.

As a result, the association launched the Lloyd Ex Foundation to seek donations, raising $41,693 as of Jan. 29.

It also accessed the wage subsidy from the federal government and has received a few grants from Saskatchewan to help with expenses, she said.

Despite pandemic uncertainty, the association plans to hold the Lloyd Ex Fair this summer, she said during the interview. “Whether it goes on is still to be seen, but we’re still making plans to hold events.”

The association has been “aggressive in our lobbying and trying to get help, and our community has stepped up huge,” she said. “Lloydminster has stepped up and is helping us keep the doors open, keep the lights on. We definitely aren’t going anywhere.”

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