By Janine Saw, BC Association of Fairs & Exhibitions
Agricultural fairs are a place where communities are built, neighbors meet, and memories are made. With something to offer people of all ages, the fairs have become a bustling hub of activity celebrating our communities, our cultures, and our traditions. A reflection of the regions that host them, the agricultural fairs and exhibitions have been a cornerstone of our neighborhoods for more than 100 years—some have been in existence for longer than their municipalities have been incorporated.
The intangible value of these events can be seen in the pride and excitement in our youth, the enthusiasm of families gathered and the dedication of more than 11,500 volunteers who put in countless hours at these events. The dedication of our Fair Associations, the community members and the volunteers ensure that the heritage and cultures of each region is celebrated.
While the value can be seen by attending any one of our association’s events, its important to also remember that fairs and exhibitions have a long lasting impact on our communities through our youth. These are the future farmers, artists, performers and community leaders who are being given a chance to see the diversity of agriculture, the excitement of animal husbandry and learn to be connected to their community. Fairs are a place where they can feel excitement and empowerment as well as a place where they can learn important skills which will serve them well throughout their lifetime. Investing in the fairs and exhibitions in our region is an investment into both the present and the future.
With the changing faces of our towns and cities, fairs and exhibitions have remained relevant and form an integral part of our yearly traditions. A recent study commissioned by BC Fairs revealed that agricultural fairs in BC draw in more than 1.16 million spectators—representing approximately 26% of our entire population. In some cases, the number of attendees to the fairs surpasses the population of that town. The economic benefit to our communities can easily be seen by looking at not only what these spectators spend, but also at the expenditures of the Fair Associations themselves. Attendee spending at the fairs is an estimated $17 million to $25 million with local residents spending a further $9.5 million within the community as a result of attending the fairs. Additionally, the BC Fairs Associations spend approximately $13.3 million annually within their own communities and a further $1.5 million within BC. Significant tourism dollars are also a direct result of out of town visitors attending the fairs and exhibits. These dollars will be spent in areas such as hospitality (campgrounds, hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues) and retail.
Further economic benefit arises from the Agricultural Fairs when you consider the benefits that suppliers and competitors gain as a direct result of their participation. From initial sales revenue or business during the fair itself, to contracts made or maintained during the fair, these suppliers and competitors see a direct benefit from these events. And, in turn, they provide job opportunities and experiences to the regions in which the fairs operate.
1 2013 BC’s Agricultural Fairs and Their Impact in BC Communities
The BC Association of Agricultural Fairs and Exhibitions (BC Fairs) was created in 1910. For more than 100 years, the organization has been in place to provide multiple levels of support to the communities within our province. At the highest level, BC Fairs has been a vocal advocate to ensure that funding and agricultural support remains a priority through its active government relations committee and guidance on matters such as gaming grant applications, funding opportunities and an exclusive insurance program. BC Fairs represents the province on the Provincial Executive Committee with CAFE (Canadian Association of Fairs & Exhibitions) and at the international level as a provincial associate of the IAFE (International Association of Fairs & Expositions).
Each year, BC Fairs organizes a conference for its members. This invaluable event provides opportunities for communities to network and learn from one another. In addition to workshops, seminars and roundtable discussions, attendees are able to discuss specific concerns or issues they may be facing and learn how other communities are responding to their needs. Members learn strategies and tactics that are actionable and, in many cases, tested. Attendees are able to return to their home communities armed with knowledge and new skills which will benefit not only their own fair or exhibition, but also be applicable to businesses regardless of whether they are agricultural, artisanal or commercial.
BC Fairs is proud of our province and the fairs and exhibitions put on by our associations. Our board and staff members are available for all members to ask questions and we take pleasure in connecting the communities together in a welcoming network of like-minded individuals. Through our activities we strive to educate, empower and excite our members and the community. Why? Because we are all passionate about the importance of agriculture and the value that agriculture adds to the economy of British Columbia.
For those working with fairs and exhibitions, the following summary of the community study is available here: Community Study, Executive Summary
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