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Midway companies all booked during fair dates Chilliwack council hears

Fair Board explains to council why midway won’t be back in the ‘Wack any time soon
Paul Jeffrey, of the Chilliwack and District Agricultural Society, provided an update to council March 19 on efforts to secure a midway. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress)

Anyone holding out hope for a return of the rides at Chilliwack Fair in August might be disappointed.

Paul Jeffrey, representing the Chilliwack and District Agricultural Society, provided council with an update last week on their efforts to secure a midway for the 2019 Chilliwack Fair.

It turns out the companies who might be available in B.C. are “all completely booked” for the local fair dates of Aug. 9 to Aug. 11.

The Ag Society was tasked by city council last year to look into what it would take to see a return of the midway to the Chilliwack Fair.

READ MORE: The year 2018 saw a great fair

Jeffrey started by explained there are two main B.C. midway operators out there. One of them, West Coast Amusements, is actually headquartered in Chilliwack, with different touring lines that fan out to events across Western Canada.

“They are busy on our weekend,” Jeffrey told council.

So they tried another company, Shooting Star, based out of Alberta.

But that one said they’d have to be re-certified for B.C. first, to the tune of $15,0000 to $20,000, to be able to bring the rides to Chilliwack.

“So they said no,” he said.

Next they headed across the border to a Washington company.

“They flat out said no,” Jeffrey recounted. For the Americans, the answer was no because of the triple-whammy: Crossing the border, recertification costs, and the value of the U.S. dollar versus the Canadian loonie.

There is even another reason, aside from the timing, why West Coast wouldn’t entertain the notion of finding a weekend or an alternative time to bring the midway back to Chilliwack.

“They told us they made $35,000 the weekend they were here for us,” Jeffrey told council members. “But they are making $500,000 to $600,000 at other locations. So they are not looking at us.”

So it appears the timing and the economics of these travelling companies don’t fall in Chilliwack’s favour. The last time there was a midway with rides and games offered at the exhibition was many years ago.

Even moving the fair to a later date in the fall was studied as an option.

“That won’t work either,” Jeffrey reported. “You start looking at the weather, a lot of the livestock and crops, it’s too late in the year for them.”

They tried to rejig the dates, but to no avail.

In any case, the jury is out whether a majority of fair-goers miss having the rides or not.

“We also heard from a lot of people at the fair that they’d like it without a midway,” Jeffrey continued, “the reason being if you have a family with two or three kids, it’s much cheaper for the family to go where they’re not dropping a hundred dollars on rides.

“Mind you, there are those who say, ‘We want a midway,’ but that always increases costs to the fair for security, garbage, cleanup and damage to the property itself.”

Parking is yet another obstacle.

“Our parking is already full. We now put our overflow parking onto the track at the back of the Heritage Park, if we were to draw in more than the 35,000 or 37,000 for the weekend, we’d have no place to put them.”

The mayor thanked the fair board for its work.

“I think you’ve done your due diligence,” said Mayor Ken Popove.

“And looking at the 37,000 attendance — that’s impressive.

“It’s a cool thing to have rides, but all your arguments and hard work try to get somebody here is much appreciated. So for me, thank you,” the mayor concluded.

Coun. Bud Mercer noted that he read the final report from the Fair organizers from 2018, and what “struck” him was that in spite of not having the midway, the fair attendance numbers were going up nonetheless.

Jeffrey agreed that was true, and said it was partly a reflection of population growth in the area, and the fact that family entertainment costs are going up as well.

Bottom line, according to the mayor: “It’s a darn good fair! That’s why people are coming out, so thanks to you and your volunteer crew.”

READ MORE: Getting ready for the fair


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Midway rides at Chilliwack Fair 2010. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file) (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)
Midway rides at Chilliwack Fair 2010. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)
Paul Jeffrey, of the Chilliwack and District Agricultural Society, providing an update to council March 19 on efforts to secure a midway. (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Progress)

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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