Some members of the Errington community are worried about the future of the Coombs Fairgrounds.
Don Alberg, past president of the Arrowsmith Agricultural Association, a registered charity in existence since the early 1900s that manages the fairgrounds, confirmed it struggled to stay afloat due to COVID-19 pandemic. The fairgrounds lost revenue from the lack of rentals and major events, such as the Coombs Fair, a two-day major fundraiser that attracts 10,000 visitors.
Although the association received COVID-19 relief grants, as well as annual remuneration from BC Gaming Grants, Alberg said it was not easy to make ends meet.
“Our insurance that we carry is a huge amount every year that we have to pay off,” said Alberg. “With no rentals our expenses are down but we still need to maintain the place and pay for things like hydro and other utilities.”
Alberg said they also lost their facility manager and had been working with temporary staff.
The AAA will hold its annual general meeting either this month or in May. Alberg said the goal is to sort everything out.
“We’ve been using a skeleton fair board this year and there are some past members who expressed interest in coming back on board,” said Alberg. “We are going to be moving forward.”
Alberg confirmed they intend to hold the popular Coombs Fair this coming August but noted they will need a lot of help.
“We’re bit behind schedule and planning for the fair but we are working on that,” said Alberg. “We have some oldtime members who are enthusiastic to become involved but we need more volunteers.”
Alberg said the news of the Vancouver Island Exhibition moving to Nanoose Bay may have triggered the concerns from the community it could lose the Coombs Fairgrounds.
“We work close with all the fairs in the Vancouver Island Fairs Association and BC Fairs,” said Alberg. “We knew they were planning a move. But the Coombs Fair competes with other events, too, in the area. And we’ve got a different style of fair than the Vancouver Island Exibition. But certainly we can all work together. There are some people that said ‘they shouldn’t be doing that’ but we all work together.”
To become a member of the Arrowsmith Agricultural Association or to volunteer, you can visit their website at https://www.coombsfair.com/