The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of many high-profile local events — the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Jazz Winnipeg, and countless others — but one standby is hoping it can still give Winnipeggers a bit of summer fun, just a little later than usual.
The Red River Ex announced Thursday that it’s bumping its dates back to Aug. 27 to Sept. 6, in hopes that by then, the province’s case count will be down and vaccinations will be way up.
Red River Ex optimistic for 2021 festival
“We certainly don’t want to cancel the Red River Ex, but we can’t have it June, obviously,” Ex CEO Garth Rogerson told 680 CJOB.
“It looks like the September long weekend — the end of August — might be safe. We’re ready to go.
“Obviously it’s going to be different and will depend on restrictions, and of course we need approval from the province, but I think it’s something that could happen in a safe manner.”
Rogerson said with the Calgary Stampede happening in July, equipment has already started rolling into Winnipeg, as it’s the easiest access point to the United States, so getting the infrastructure in place for the long-running summer fair won’t be an issue.
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The Ex had to cancel last year’s event, which fell within the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Rogerson said the organization has been working on ways to maintain social distancing and other health and safety measures over the past few months.
“It takes months to plan this type of operation, so we can’t just leave it and hope for the best,” he said.
“We’re going to operate within the rules. I know the government has a very challenging thing to get us all vaccinated…. I think we’re still two, two and a half months away, so you can do the math on that and see that we’re potentially going to be in good shape.”
Rogerson said if the COVID-19 situation worsens and the Ex has to cancel, then it’ll cancel — but it’s a large annual moneymaker for the province, employing thousands of people, so it’s important to try to make it happen if at all possible.
“The Red River Ex generates $10 million in economic activity when it comes to town … this is huge money to the economy.
“It’s a big source of income, and I think it’ll help give some hope to the community as well — it’s sort of the light at the end of the tunnel that we can see.
“I think we can have a lot of fun and do it in a safe way.”
Manitoba health officials reported 355 new cases of the virus — and five new deaths — in the province Thursday, bringing the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba to 51,935.
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