Vancouver Island Exhibition opens despite pandemic challenges

Vancouver Island Exhibition opens despite pandemic challenges
File Photo
Vancouver Island Exhibition organizers say they're glad to reach opening day after working non-stop for the past seven weeks to plan the event.

This weekend marks the 127th Vancouver Island Exhibition in Nanaimo and this one will be unique.

It will be held during the COVID-19 pandemic and that’s meant a lot of extra challenges for organizers.

Many people were lined up Friday when the gates opened and the excitement was tangible after last year’s in-person exhibition was called off.

“I think it’s awesome. I’m just coming to see the bands,” said Sharon Hagen, an attendee.

“I’ve actually never been so I’m quite excited about it,” said Shiloh Wall, another attendee.

Last year, there was a virtual event and this year it appeared it might be the same until BC’s provincial health officer opened the doors in June for live events.

“When that was announced at the end of June we started planning. We had seven weeks. We worked around the clock and we just figured it out and I’m just blown away with how well the community has come together,” said Michelle Solloway of the Vancouver Island Exhibition.

The Exhibition has been scaled back from past years with pandemic protocols prohibiting events inside buildings.

But many of the exhibition favourites are back including the vintage tractor displays, mainstage music presentions, and the President’s Choice Super Dogs among others.

The dance duo Funkanometry is performing Saturday as well.

But the organizers realized planning all of this would be extra challenging during a pandemic.

“Because everything could change at any minute and we had to be ready to pivot in any direction at any given time. For example, three days ago we found out we had to fence this area off and limit the capacity for the mainstage,” said Solloway.

Masks are not required unless in the animal barns but people are being asked to social distance.

“I can’t wait to get our community back together. I think the pandemic created a bit of a divide and we all feel a little bit alone and that’s my favourite thing about these events is bringing people together,” said Solloway.

Those attending say they feel safe at this year’s exhibition.

“It will be great. Everyone is taking precautions. I think most people have been vaccinated so I think we should do well, said Marie Geib, an attendee.

The exhibition runs through Sunday.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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