“Financially we came through the year in a positive financial position,” says George Fowler general manager of the Moose Jaw Exhibition Company (MJEX) about 2020.
A year that had started with major bookings of facilities saw those numbers disappear as event after event cancelled their bookings with the MJEX.
“We lost a lot of bookings for weddings, for horseshows, or trailer sales, or the Sukanen Ship swap meet, SCRAPS, and motorcycles," Fowler said.
For months no events were held on the Exhibition grounds.
Despite the loss of the event revenue, the MJEX was able to post a surplus of $7,148 on revenues of $912,516 and $905,368 in expenses.
By contrast in 2019, the MJEX ran a deficit of $36,824 on revenues of $1,169,988 and expenses of $1,206,812.
Despite the slowdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the MJEX did not lay off any employees but rather took advantage of the wage subsidies to keep all staff employed. The staff were kept at their pre-COVID wage levels despite the fact the MJEX could have cut wages to save cash.
The MJEX was able to access $148,034 from the Canada Wage Subsidy and $15,000 form a Government of Saskatchewan tourism grant for a total of $164,034 to keep all staff employed. Staff at other non-profit tourism related organizations in the city were not as fortunate as they had to endure layoffs.
“We took advantage of the wage subsidy and did a lot of work we planned to do over the next couple of years to keep our staff occupied,” he said.
The added work done throughout 2020 is a positive for the MJEX and their tenants and renters.
“I think that when the people come, especially in the equine area, people are going to notice improvements that we have done and they are going to be very happy.”
Despite the lack of events, the MJEX was still busy taking care of the needs they have of tenants such as those who regularly board horses at the MJEX.
Renters such as the Moose Jaw Kennel Club still were able to bring their dogs out for exercising as long as they followed the COVID-19 restrictions.
One of the big pluses of not having to get rid of employees is that the MJEX was able to have staffing continuity and when the expected opening of events occurs as expected later this summer or into the fall, the knowledgeable staff will be ready.
“When we come out of the pandemic, we have the experienced staff here and ready to get back at it,” Fowler said.
“We have a really good staff and they always look for things to do and it’s easy to keep them busy. Of course nothing replaces the fair and the bigger horse shows but our staff made it through the pandemic and kept themselves busy.”
A major plus for the MJEX was the board was “fully supportive in keeping our staff working and doing a number of projects.”
With the pandemic restrictions seemingly running their course, Fowler is hopeful that two major events — the Provincial Barrel Racing Championship on August 15-19 where 700 competitors are expected and the Barrel Futurity, Derby and Slot Race with the second largest prize package for barrel racing in Western Canada — can be held.
The loss of the Hometown Fair and Parade is still being hoped for in 2022 after having to cancel the fair in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
If all goes well the MJEX is hoping to offer the free Christmas show subject to the COVID-19 restrictions, Fowler said.