There is a glimmer of hope for Toronto's 2021 Canadian National Exhibition.
The massive fair has announced that it plans to reopen in August after it was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The CNE has been a staple tradition since 1879 and draws millions of visitors annually. However, the City of Toronto recently announced it would be cancelling all major public events scheduled from now until July 1.
While this year's event is still tentative, Darrell Brown, the CNE’s Director of Corporate Support and Legal Services, spoke with Narcity about what the fair could look like if it's able to take place.
How is the CNE preparing to open?
Hosting Canada's largest community event during uncertain times is no easy feat, and the CNE has planned several alternative methods of operating.
However, the event is hoping to open as usual.
"Typically we have over 700 vendors and exhibitors and over 1,000 entertainers and performers," Brown told Narcity. "We're still working along those scales in terms of the full CNE."
In case plans need to be altered, Brown explained that protocols such as reduced capacity in lines and on rides might be in place, or that the event could be hosted entirely outdoors.
"We're continuing to look at it, day-to-day, and we will adjust as we go along, but our hope is that we can arrive at a full opening."
What challenges is the CNE facing as it prepares to reopen?
Aside from the uncertainty surrounding events and the pandemic, financing the CNE has been a huge difficulty.
"From a financial standpoint, we were pretty much wiped out last year," Brown says.
"Normally we would have revenue of somewhere between $35 and $36 million, so our revenue dropped [by] let's say, 95%."
As an independent, not-for-profit agricultural society, Brown highlighted the fact that financing the fair is entirely the CNE's responsibility.
Loans and deferrals were taken advantage of in order to go forward with the 2021 event.
"We've gotten to where we are right now by financing, not by getting grants from the government."
What could this year's CNE look like?
Brown says that if the event goes ahead, it could be like one big party.
"People are, I think, somewhat desperate to be able to do something in the normal course."
The fair could possibly be a combination of multiple events the city has missed out on due to lockdown.
"It may be the case that some of those events might like to cooperate with us and be ruled in."
Of course, everything is dependent on the regulations surrounding the pandemic at the time.
"It can be a real celebration of a number of events in the city that normally would take place at different times, but that's all tentative at this point," Brown concludes.