The board of Abbotsford Agrifair is seeking a long-term funding commitment from the city.
Board president Bob Street and fair manager Graham Vanstone recently approached city council, saying they want to grow the organization and be able to offer more to the community year round.
In terms of Agrifair, Street said it is difficult for the board to book the kinds of activities and entertainment it would like to each year when it doesn’t know far enough in advance how much money the city will contribute.
“Upon the conclusion of our fair every year, we’re back to square one – our hands are out; it’s a non-profit (and) we’re looking for funds,” he told council.
“…But if we were to have a baseline – a security in knowing what we’re able to already starting making commitments and promises to – … then we’d be able to turn around and stand a little bit more directly on our own two feet.”
Vanstone told The News that the non-profit Agrifair has to apply for funding from the city each year, and often doesn’t know how much it is getting until two or three months before the event.
He said Agrifair’s annual budget runs from $500,000 to $750,000, and the city’s contribution is usually around $80,000, much of which goes towards services such as policing and fencing costs.
Vanstone said some years the fair makes a profit, while other years it records a loss, depending on factors such as the weather or – as was the case the last two years – a pandemic.
But Vanstone and Street said the Agrifair board would like to expand beyond the annual event and generate more revenue throughout the year.
Street told council this could include on-site events around Christmas and Halloween.
Vanstone said another possibility is an artisan market with food trucks.
He said Agrifair works with other community partners, supports a summer student program and is an economic generator for the community.
“A survey that we did a few years ago showed that, I think, 72 per cent of out-of-town attendees, based on their experience at Agrifair, would return to Abbotsford again for other reasons,” Vanstone said.
He said discussions are ongoing with the city, but decisions about funding likely won’t come until after the municipal election this fall.
Street told council that a funding commitment would ensure that the board can continue to expand – “so it can stand on its own so we don’t have to come here every year and say, ‘Hi, how’s it going? Can we have a little bit of help?’ “
This year’s Agrifair runs from July 29 to 31 at Abbotsford Exhibition Park.