Summer fair faces challenges

·4 min read

THUNDER BAY, ONT. — Returning from a two-year hiatus is not an easy feat for the Canadian Exhibition (CLE) as organizers, vendors and amusement ride companies deal with everything from work shortages, lack of volunteers, employee reductions and lingering COVID fears.

But all these things are not stopping the 132nd annual fair from taking place Aug. 10-14.

From amusement rides to entertainment and a variety of food vendors and children’s activities, there will be something for everyone.

The lineup on stage will feature Kim Mitchell, Streetheart, Trooper, Honeymoon Suite, Who’s Who, an AC/DC cover band and a hypnotist.

Marian Benka, who has been a director with the CLE for 48 years, has prepared and updated prize books for the Dove Building exhibition which are ready to be picked up at the office on Northern Avenue. People can choose from a list of categories to enter and there will also be a people’s choice award.

“We have a new category called ‘What did you do with your time during the pandemic?’ It is for exhibit only and not for prizes. We want to know what you did with that free time that you had during the shutdown,” said Benka. “Did you do something on your bucket list or did you do a home craft, cooking, carpentry or anything like that?”

Any creation that is 50 centimetres or less, can be brought in to be displayed or, if it’s bigger, they can submit a photograph or picture project.

Kids World will be back and so will Child Find in the Dove Building. The baby show will get underway on Sunday inside the Silver City Theatre where there is proper seating and air conditioning for the comfort of the infants and their families. Sleeping Giant Exotics will showcase their animals and a canine show will also take place.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit will be onsite throughout the fair providing vaccinations for those who are eligible.

Fair chairman Basil Lychowyd says things are looking good and they will probably have a full complement of vendors outdoors. Inside the Coliseum, however, there are still spaces available.

“We will have the full complement of the Midway with Select Shows and Canuck Amusements,” he said. “We’ll have a nice closing ceremony with fireworks, which we do at 11 o’clock on Sunday night.”

Lychowyd says planning began late because of the COVID regulations that remained in place late last year when planning generally begins.

“We weren’t even sure we’re going to have a fair,” he said.

“In December there were a lot of health and capacity regulations still imposed and things could change with the flick of a switch here. So because of the time, we’ve decided to have a variant (of a fair).

Lychowyd says they have lost staff and had to lay people off as a result of the pandemic, while others are away for health reasons. Even the petting zoo operators are having staffing problems and they are dealing with precautions against Avian flu.

“And then there are other things that happened that’s, beyond our control like the high gas prices,” he said. “If we pull this off, it’s going to be a miracle. We are trying to do what we can with the resources we have and we’re also trying to hire people and get volunteers.”

Lychowyd said they have their “feelers” out there and they hope with school being out, perhaps students will be looking for some work. Technology with online applications and permits challenge some that are not technically savvy on a computer and miss face-to-face communication.

Lychowyd also wonders who will come to the fair and figures that people are eager to get out and enjoy activities after two years of being cooped up and restricted.

“When you look at it from an economic point, how are the people spending out there with everything else happening? We could be gambling you know, in terms of who’s going to attend. Some may think it’s still too early to engage in a crowd,” he said.

“Preparation is going good, but it’s at a slower pace and there’s always something that comes up. Hopefully, we could pull this off and make people happy and get them out of the house.”

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal

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