The show must go on at the Cowichan Exhibition this year, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, it could look more like the fall fairs of 150 years ago, organizers say. (Citizen file)

Cowichan Exhibition organizers have to be flexible with 2020 plans

Event will take place this year, but it might look different

With three months to go, a lot could change before the 152nd Cowichan Exhibition takes place in September, and organizers know they need to be flexible as they make plans.

“We are doing our darnedest to do something for the community that they can get out and enjoy,” executive director Shari Paterson said.

The fair will definitely take place, Paterson confirmed, but what it looks like will depend on how the COVID-19 pandemic plays out between now and then.

RELATED: COVID-19 scales back — not cancels — Saanich Fair

“It’s very complicated,” she acknowledged. “Something we plan today can change tomorrow. As we get closer to July, we’ll have a better idea again.”

Organizers are hoping to proceed as close as possible to the usual, but they know it won’t be the event most fairgoers are accustomed to. Their goal now is to bring families together in a safe environment that conforms to whatever the public health guidelines are. They are planning around restrictions as they are today, but know they can always add more.

“We will plan around what the current guidelines are,” Paterson said. “But if things open up, all the better.”

In a message posted to the Exhibition website, president Tony Irwin suggested that the fair will be returning to its roots.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our fair will likely be more reminiscent of the fall fairs of 150 years ago,” he said. “However, we promise to keep you updated with information on this year’s fair plans as well as other events being held at Exhibition Park. The Cowichan Exhibition has been ingrained in the community for 152 years. As everyone is doing these days, we are trying to find ways to stay sustainable and to offer our community a place to get together while safely staying apart.”

There will definitely not be a midway this year, and organizers don’t plan to accommodate 18,000 people over a three-day span, as they usually would. The fair is scheduled for Sept. 11-13, but fortunately, it doesn’t have to be restricted to three days.

“We can do this over a number of weeks or days,” Paterson noted. “It doesn’t have to be all on the second weekend of September.”

RELATED: COVID-19 hasn’t yet caused cancellation of Nanaimo’s Bathtub race or VIEX

That doesn’t mean those days won’t be exciting on their own.

“We do have plans for those days, something really exciting to offer,” Paterson hinted, refusing to share any more details.

Regardless of what happens this year, because of all the planning they’ve been doing for 2020, the Ex could be really ahead of the curve for 2021, Paterson added.

“We’ve turned our attention toward what we can do and get creative,” she said. “We are open to suggestions.”

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