Farmfair watches COVID restrictions

Farmfair International will be organized this year by Explore Edmonton, which took over from the now-defunct Northlands. | File photo

As they keep an eye on the fourth wave of COVID-19, the new organizers of one of Canada’s top agricultural shows are continuing with plans to hold a normal event this fall in Edmonton.

Farmfair International is slated to be held Nov. 10-13 for the first time since 2019. It was cancelled last year due to the pandemic and it is currently under the management of Explore Edmonton, which took over from the now-defunct Northlands.

“I do know that the interest and excitement about having Farmfair again is really high,” said Leah Jones, who is the event’s new director. “There’s really a lot of great positive energy and discussion going on out there in terms of social media about Farmfair.”

There has also been plenty of interest from foreign producers who are considering importing the purebred genetics of western Canadian cattle, she said.

If such people are prevented from attending Farmfair in person at the Edmonton Expo Centre due to federal pandemic travel restrictions, “we will work with them in a virtual way to try and connect their interest with our exhibitors at the show.”

Jones added it is too early to say if this summer’s heat waves and drought, which affected beef producers across Western Canada, will have an impact on the number of exhibitors. The deadline for entries is Oct. 1.

The Alberta government recently reimposed COVID-19 restrictions due to a surge in cases that has strained the capacity of hospitals.

“We’re monitoring and assessing day by day,” said Jones.

“Obviously, as a public facility, we will follow the protocols that are outlined by the City of Edmonton and the Alberta government. At this point, the masking protocol is back in place and we will follow that.”

The pandemic forced the 142-year-old Northlands to wind down on July 5 following several years of financial difficulties. It had been the oldest agricultural society in Alberta.

“Yeah, so with the transition of Northlands wrapping up and Explore Edmonton taking it on, we’re going through a bit of a transition … and like I said, we are planning on having a normal show, and we will continue to monitor and assess what’s going on with COVID and adjust accordingly.”

This year’s Farmfair will offer a total prize purse of more than $300,000 that will be the largest of its kind in Canada, said Jones. “It is the largest beef cattle show in Alberta and one of the top three shows in the nation, so we’re excited to get back to that.”

Farmfair is slated to include things such as the Alberta Supreme Show, which will feature breed champions Nov. 13 from the province’s top three cattle shows. There will also be the Heritage Ranch Rodeo from Nov. 11 to 13, and the Stock Dog Competition from Nov. 12 to 13.

Jones said organizers are “really trying to put together a nice complement of cattle show competition, business and ag entertainment for both our rural guests that are interested in agriculture and livestock as well as our urban guests.”

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