INNISFAIL – Despite the ongoing problems and worry caused by the COVID pandemic, the Innisfail District Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors has given the green light for the annual Innisfail Trade Show to re-open its doors for a two-day event in April for the first time in three years.
The dates for the Chamber sponsored event, also called 2022 Spring Trade Expo, are scheduled for Friday, April 1 and Saturday, April 2.
The event in Innisfail will once again be held at the Innisfail Twin Arena, and open on Friday at 5 p.m. and running until 9 p.m. On Saturday, the event will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There will be a nominal charge of $2 for adults, $1 for anyone under the age of 18 or over 65, and $5 for families.
“We are opening the trade show in 10 weeks and one hour,” said Carla Gabert, the Chamber’s executive director, adding the Chamber is expecting the attendance of about 100 vendors, which was the norm before the pandemic. “It’s a start for things returning to normal.”
Coun. Janice Wing, town council’s representative to the Chamber board, said the decision to go ahead with the trade show was made unanimously during a board strategic planning session on Jan. 13.
“There was no hesitation,” said Wing, adding the Arena space for the fair was confirmed with the town earlier in the month. “Of course, there’s always that unknown piece right now as far of what will happen with COVID but we really believe that through following provincial guidelines that have been set out for trade shows and events like this we feel we can offer an event that honours the restrictions that are in place by the government but also giving us an opportunity to celebrate what’s going on in our community.”
Gabert said the Chamber’s plan is to have a provincially mandated Restrictions Exemption Program (REP), which will require proof of vaccine passports, negative test results or medical exemption for patrons 12 and over, and mandatory masking.
She said trade show organizers are still working on details of the REP with Alberta Health Services to determine whether food vendors, for a Taste of Innisfail attraction, will be permitted, or whether some or all restrictions must be in place.
Gabert said the Arena’s blue rink will be for the main trade show, while the red rink will be for special attractions, including Auto Row for car dealers, as well as a “make it, bake it, grow it” market, an area for young entrepreneurs, and a Children’s Corner play area.
Registration for vendors opened on Jan. 24, and full price lists are available on the Chamber’s website. There is a 20 per cent discount for non-profits.
“The residents and businesses in town are eager to be able to attend community events again, so for us to be able to spend time with our neighbours and with our local business people and learn about all that has changed and gone on since the last trade fair three years ago will be significant,” said Wing.
She said the annual event is also a “demonstration of the fabric of the community”, an event where citizens can learn what the full capacity of the community looks like.
“When you say to people business development or economic development in Innisfail is important for our growth and its important for us to be able to stabilize the services that we offer and the way we live, people don’t often understand what that means because they just don’t know how deep the business economy and business community is in Innisfail,” said Wing.
“So, people don’t necessarily get into their cars and tour around in our industrial areas just to remind themselves of who is there,” she added. “So, trade fairs are important way for us to celebrate our community. It’s a good way for us to show, yes, strut our stuff, show each other who we are, show each other what kinds of services that are available.”