The largest crowd ever was in attendance at the 147th Chilliwack Fair in August.
Almost 41,000 people came through the gates in 2019, which was an increase of eight per cent, according to Cathy Oss, who delivered the annual report to council Dec. 3 on behalf of the Chilliwack Agricultural Society.
But increased security costs are going to be required in the budget for 2020 in order to keep exhibitors and livestock safe at the fair due to increased levels of animal activism in recent years, Oss said.
“Demographics are changing so that most people have little connection with agriculture and food production,” Oss told council. “We are receiving attention from activists because of this.”
But farms and farmers should be celebrated, not subjected to harassment, she said.
The Vancouver Humane Society (VHS) has been attending the Chilliwack Rodeo for the past several years, with photographers planted in the crowd, and concern expresses over the alleged use of a cattle prod known as a “hot shot” to get animals to perform, which Chilliwack Rodeo officials firmly denied is being used in that way.
Some 4-H youth and farmers reported being “harassed and threatened,” Oss said. They say they’ve lost two major sponsors over it.
“Some of our sponsors and farmers no longer want to have their name or any signs displayed due to negative publicity,” Oss wrote.
There was a small profit recorded this year, she said, but it will likely be needed for the extra security costs, and fencing.
A Dec. 6 letter to The Progress from Peter Fricker of the VHS denied that the group had anything to do with any threats or harassment.
“When VHS or members of the public email sponsors of the fair to urge them to withdraw their support of the rodeo, that is an example of people exercising their democratic right to take part in public discourse,” Fricker wrote.
“People have a right to express their views about a business’s stance on a public issue, and VHS is clear about the need to engage respectfully. This is not ‘harassment,’ as the report mischaracterizes it.”
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