Western Fair has survived the pandemic. Its next challenge? inflation

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Advance ticket sales were up at the Western Fair this year, as rising costs put pressure on the pocketbooks of fairgoers and organizers of the fall mainstay.

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The number of people who bought tickets to this year’s Western Fair ahead of time for less than the gate price is up at least 10 per cent from 2019, the last in-person fair, director of sales and retail operations Greg Blanchard said. The exact figures will be available later in the 10-day event.

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“It’s always the balance you’re trying to come up with. The costs of everything have gone up and we, at the same time, are trying to keep it as affordable as we can for people,” Blanchard said. “Comparatively, I think we’re very competitive. . . . The staff who work here are regular people who want to bring their families. We’re always trying our best.”

The increased demand for advance tickets may be driven by pent-up demand for the fair, its first time in-person since the pandemic began, or by fairgoers seeking savings at a time when inflation is running at levels not seen in nearly four decades, Blanchard said.

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The significant rise in the cost of goods and services, which hit a 39-year high of 8.1 per cent in June, has prompted the Bank of Canada to make aggressive interest rate hikes to battle inflation. Inflationary pressure plays out for consumers at the gas pumps and grocery store shelves, but also in the behind-the-scenes planning of the fair, Blanchard said.

“We understand that everything is more expensive and people are on tighter budgets these days,” he said. “We have that in our minds when we’re planning and try our best.”

Fair organizers froze general admission prices for adults at 2019 levels and made seniors and kids under 10 years old free, Blanchard said. In 2019, children four and under were free and seniors were $10 at the gate.

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A ride-all-day pass for the fair is $45 at the gate this year.

Even before the pandemic and inflation crunch, Western Fair officials have been trying to get the word out on advance tickets, which were available until the day before the fair opens.

“You can get Super Passes for $40. That gets you admission and the chance to ride all day,” Blanchard said. “We want to get through to people to buy early. You can save upwards of 35 to 40 per cent.”

Western Fair organizers have a handful of money-saving promotions this year, Blanchard said, including two-for-one admission from 3 to 5 pm on weekdays and Super Sunday on Sept. 18, where admission is $10 at the gate and a ride-all-day pass is $30. Parking is free at the Western Fair District.

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The admission price gets fairgoers access to shows, including a canine circus and wrestling, throughout the day, Blanchard said.

Fairgoer Amie Benstead, who was there with her husband and two children, said free admission for the kids was great and the adult admission price at the gate was reasonable.

“If I went to an event I’d probably expect to pay $30 to get in,” she said, adding the food prices at the fair were expensive.

The cost of food – $14 for fries and $7 for a slice of pizza – was a bit much for Len Williams, who was taking his two grandkids for a day at the fair Saturday, but the fair is still a fun day out, he said .

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Some fairgoers got creative with their cost-cutting. Tanisha Phillipas, who was at the fair with a group of nine adults and five children Saturday, brought a cooler with drinks and snacks. The “atmosphere” of the fair is what brought her back this year, she said.

jbieman@postmedia.com


What: Western Fair

When: Daily, through Sunday, Sept. 18 (Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 10 pm; Monday to Friday, 3 pm to 10 pm)

Where: Western Fair District, 845 Florence St., London

Admission: $15 at the gate, free for seniors and children younger than 10. Free parking.

More information: Visit the website westernfair.ca for tickets and other information, including attractions, events and maps

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