The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is calling on the provincial government to meet with the Interior Provincial Exhibition organization in Armstrong to help ensure the long-term viability of the annual fair, which has been cancelled the last two years due to the pandemic. (Morning Star - file photo)

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is calling on the provincial government to meet with the Interior Provincial Exhibition organization in Armstrong to help ensure the long-term viability of the annual fair, which has been cancelled the last two years due to the pandemic. (Morning Star - file photo)

Greater Vernon Chamber calls on Victoria to ensure viability of IPE

Armstrong’s annual fair, more than a century old, has been cancelled the last two years due to COVID-19

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is urging the provincial government to ensure the long-term viability of one of the North Okanagan’s largest festivals.

The chamber has thrown its support behind Armstrong’s Interior Provincial Exhibition (IPE) in a letter to Premier John Horgan and the agriculture, tourism and finance ministers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the IPE being cancelled in 2020 and 2021 and this lack of revenue has had a significant impact on the IPE as there are fixed costs beyond the five days of the fair,” said chamber president Krystin Kempton. “Staff is required year-round to plan for next year’s festivities.

“We appreciate that the government is focused on the immediate reopening of the economy as COVID vaccinations occur. But there is also a need to look to 2022 and subsequent years so prosperity returns to all parts of B.C.

“In the Okanagan, tourism and agriculture are key economic pillars and the Armstrong fair is critical to both of those sectors.”

A 2017 study indicated that the IPE attracted 10,052 out-of-region visitors and an economic impact of $6.6 million. Other data from the study includes:

• Total spent in restaurants/bars – $1.469 million;

• Total spent on transportation (parking, fuel, etc.) – $1.664 million;

• Total spend in grocery/liquor stores – $1.210 million;

• Total spend on retail – $1.635 million;

• Total spend on commercial lodgings – $659,397.

Beyond the out-of-region visitors (defined as travelling 100 kilometres or more), thousands of people attend from the Thompson-Okanagan and they have a considerable economic impact on local retailers, transportation and vendors. “We request that the government meet with representatives from the IPE to fully understand the challenges they are experiencing and that the government identify a strategy to financially assist the IPE,” said Kempton.

The Greater Vernon Chamber also encourages government assistance for other North Okanagan festivals that enhance tourism and provide economic stimulus to our region such as Funtastic, Creative Chaos, Shoparama, Vernon Winter Carnival, the Okanagan Military Tattoo and the Vernon Proms Classical Music Festival.

READ MORE: Armstrong’s IPE not eligible for COVID-19 grant designed for major attractions

Earlier this month, IPE organizers learned it couldn’t apply for funds through the province’s major attractions COVID-19 relief program as it fails to qualify.

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo scrutinized the eligibility criteria when it was announced May 18, as it requires events be operated year-round or open to visitors for 60 days in a calendar year in order to apply.

Now, Kyllo is questioning why there couldn’t have been adjustments made to the rules.

“Government holds the pen for the eligibility criteria, they can modify or adjust the eligibility criteria at any point in time so that smaller fairs like the IPE, the Salmon Arm fair and Falkland Rodeo can actually make an application,” Kyllo said.

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