Organizers of large public events this weekend say their rules should keep patrons safe from COVID-19.
The Red River Exhibition will open today for the first time since 2019, with its new carnival, dubbed the Fall Fair, slated to run until Sept. 6.
Only those who’ve received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed, along with kids under 12 accompanied by a vaccinated adult. No events will be held indoors, while attendees will be asked to wear masks when using washrooms. Rides and other attractions will be sanitized constantly and hand sanitizer and handwashing stations will dot the grounds.
The carnival will feature the Ex’s typical fare: midway rides, music, entertainment and food vendors, but with travel restrictions, this new event has a local focus.
"At a regular Red River Ex, we bring in the big U.S. carnival and we have a lot of travelling concessions and a lot of travelling attractions and so forth, so we had to pivot because of the health requirements," said Garth Rogerson, chief executive officer of the Red River Exhibition Association.
That means local bands, food vendors and two midway carnival ride operators have brought in about 50 rides, rather than the usual North American Midway Entertainment-run attractions.
Rogerson’s big concern is a COVID-19 outbreak.
"I am always nervous, because we don’t want anybody to get sick," Rogerson said. "We’re going to be extremely vigilant."
Three other large events slated for this weekend require full immunization against COVID-19.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will host the Calgary Stampeders at IG Field on Sunday. The Blue and Gold, too, only allow those who’ve been double-vaccinated to attend home games. Fans don’t need to wear masks in the stands, but are required to don a face covering in indoor common areas.
The Burt Block Party was held indoors last week due to heavy rain, but was slated to welcome up to 4,000 music fans directly outside the Burton Cummings Theatre downtown, over four nights and two weekends. At the indoor concerts last Friday and Saturday, masks were mandatory — except when eating and drinking.
The concert series is open only to adults who have been double-vaccinated. The concert planned for tonight will go ahead inside the theatre on Smith Street.
The province’s 150th anniversary will be celebrated with a day-long event at Shaw Park on Saturday, featuring nearly 20 performers.
Initial 150th anniversary celebrations slated throughout the summer of 2020 were axed amid the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the day-long concert was moved from the grounds of the Manitoba legislature to the stadium. Only double-jabbed attendees will be permitted.
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.