Following last year’s dismal weather, organizers of the Fair at the PNE are exploring abandoning the tradition of ending the annual event on Labour Day near the end of summer to a period during the mid-summer season.
Despite a strong start, inclement weather during the 2015 Fair led to the worst seasonal attendance in at least a decade, with attendance during the 15-day event dropping to just 678,193 – a 10% decline over a normal year. This figure accounts for the three extra free gate admission dates due to rainfall and high winds, including the severe windstorm of Saturday, August 29.
A single-day low of 20,083 attendees was also recorded on September 1. Normally, when there are fair weather conditions, the Fair sees anywhere between 40,000 to 65,000 attendees per day.
“We have not made the decision to change Fair dates, we are just exploring the possibility. This is some very preliminary research on a concept that we as an organization have been considering for close to a decade,” said PNE spokesperson Laura Ballance in a statement.
Fair officials say the last two weeks of August receive twice the amount of rainfall on average compared to the last two weeks of July. As well, temperatures are still increasing in late-July but it begins to fall towards the end of August.
“The fact is, the weather patterns are changing and over the past 25 years, late August is consistently receiving more rain and experiencing cooler temperatures. Our long standing tradition that has us ending on Labour Day may no longer make sense from a weather perspective.”
Insights West has been contracted to conduct a province-wide poll on a possible new Fair window. At this time, the PNE has not specified which dates are being seriously considered, but a move to a period during the latter half of July is the most likely option, which could potentially compete with the Celebration of Light fireworks.
At one point in its history, the Fair was a three-week-long event, but this was shortened to 17 days in recent decades and then to 15 days in 2013, with the first two Mondays eliminated from the season schedule.
If the plan goes ahead, a date change for the Fair would begin in 2018 at the very earliest. This year’s Fair is scheduled to occur from August 20 to September 5.
Comparatively, the Calgary Stampede will be held from July 8 to 17 while the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto will go on from August 19 to September 5.
PlayLand amusement park opened for the season earlier this month, with operating hours limited to weekends until June 17 when it will begin operating on weekdays too.