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PNE cancels in-person fair for 2021, citing COVID concerns

Restrictions have made planning too difficult, organizers say
FILE – A vendor waits to serve mini doughnuts to a motorist at a drive-thru event with mini doughnut vendors at the Pacific National Exhibition grounds, in Vancouver, on Sunday, May 24, 2020. The PNE organized the event to help support vendors who will be unable to sell at the fair this year due to the cancellation of the annual event because of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The 100-year-old PNE will not be running an in-person fair this summer, organizers said in a statement Wednesday (May 5).

“Despite our planning for a number of scalable versions of the PNE Fair, it is now clear that the number of guests required to make an in-person Fair financially viable will not be allowed under anticipated Public Health Orders this summer,” said spokesperson Laura Ballance, adding that the team would look to see what is possible as summer nears.

The announcement came just days after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed there would be no large events, even outdoors, this year.

“I can say there is not likely to be big events of any sort, even outdoors, through this summer and into the fall or winter of next year,” Henry said Monday.

“I can see many situations where we can have smaller, distanced outdoor events this summer, perhaps hundreds of people.”

Organizers said that losing the fair two years in a row will hurt employees.

“Losing the second year of the PNE Fair is a massive loss of much needed employment for our members,” said CUPE 1004 President Andrew Ledger. “We are deeply concerned about the thousands of CUPE members that depend on the Fair each summer to pay their way through school or to help support their families.”

The PNE, owned by the City of Vancouver, creates 4,300 indirect and 9,500 direct jobs.

Organizers say it brings 185,000 tourists to the Lower Mainland each year, something that could provide difficult if current travel restrictions continue.

READ MORE: Large events ‘not likely’ to happen in B.C. this year, even as vaccine rollout speeds up: Henry


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