CNE future in doubt after pandemic losses

Might be able to reopen next year, but beyond that is in question

The days may be numbered for the Canadian National Exhibition.

It’s reporting a loss of $6 million dollars this year due to the pandemic and estimates a 95 per cent drop in projected revenue from cancelling its event, totalling more than $35 million in losses from ticket sales, exhibitor commitments, sponsorships and other income streams.

“Government relief programs have largely excluded fairs, exhibitions, and agricultural societies, and have not considered the unique challenges of our industry – most important of which is that fairs rely on 90+ per cent of its annual revenue on a few days or months of the year; unlike the typical funding recipients of arts and cultural sector grants that support museums, galleries and attractions that are able to generate year-round revenue streams,” says Darrell Brown, CNE Executive Director.

Historical precedence suggests that after challenging years for the CNE, attendance figures tend to surge the following year to double-digit increases.  Notwithstanding factors related to the pandemic, CNE organizers are confident that with the combined support and investment it hopes to receive this year, along with next year’s forecast in attendance, it will be able to put on a successful 2021 season.  

That said, the long-term economic viability of Canada’s largest fair is uncertain beyond next year.