This year’s Abbotsford Agrifair rodeo has been cancelled to save money following a $51,000 deficit in 2015.
The decision was made in January, four months after the fair’s board of directors announced the contract of general manager Pamela Brenner would not be renewed, in order to save about $68,000.
Brenner had been the organization’s GM since 2007.
Board president Ernie Silveri and vice-president Stephanie Nelson said cancelling the Mighty Fraser Rodeo will result in savings of between $75,000 and $80,000 for 2016. These costs include prize money, Canadian Professional Rodeo Association approval fees, and contractor fees.
They said the 21-year-old rodeo, which is just one portion of the decades-old fair that runs annually on the B.C. Day long weekend, could return in future years.
The board has also decided to reduce this year’s fair from four days to three, running Friday, July 29 to Sunday, July 31.
In past years, Agrifair has also been held on the holiday Monday, and Nelson said the board hopes to return to the longer fair in the future.
Silveri and Nelson said the cost-cutting decisions were difficult but necessary.
“It comes back to sustainability. We want to be here for another 100-plus years,” Nelson said.
They said they anticipate losing some attendance from people who come to Agrifair solely for the rodeo, but hope to make up those numbers with other initiatives.
Silveri said other activities are being slated for the rodeo ring at Exhibition Park, although he couldn’t go into detail because those plans have not yet been finalized.
Recently released figures indicate that Agrifair recorded a deficit of just over $51,000 last year (about $605,000 in expenses and $554,000 in revenue), compared to a $16,000 shortfall in 2014.
Silveri said some of the 2015 losses were due to a drop in attendance because of extreme record-breaking heat. Almost 36,000 people attended the 2015 fair, compared to about 37,000 in 2014 and 41,500 in 2013.
Nelson said last year’s deficit also included about $30,000 that was spent on additional attractions and activities to try to draw in more people.
She said the board has since realized that approach didn’t work.
“We recognized that we polarized the fair with small pockets of things to do, rather than more of a cohesive fair,” Nelson said.
She said the plan for 2016 is to make activities at the fair blend together better – for example, by offering an agriculture awareness tour that takes people to the different sections of the fair, explaining where their food comes from.
Measures to address the heat include cooling stations, a misting tent and an indoor fun zone with activities such as mini golf, rocking climbing and a literacy centre.
Nelson said the emphasis will be on family fun, affordability, and agricultural awareness and education.
Silveri said the absence of a general manager has meant that the 10-member volunteer board has taken on more work, but they are committed to seeing the event continue long into the future.
“We should be proud of our fair,” he said.
Agrifair has received a $90,000 grant from the City of Abbotsford the last few years and anticipates getting $85,000 this year, but Nelson said the board’s strategic plan is to make the event self-sustaining in the next few years.
She hopes that people continue to attend Agrifair and that more people choose it as part of their vacation plans instead of going away for the long weekend.
“We want you to have a good time so you see good value in it and it becomes part of the tapestry of your family.”