BARRHEAD - Town of Barrhead councillors believes the community will increase its chances of attracting the Alberta Trappers Association’s (ATA) annual Rendezvous & Outdoorsmen Show in 2024 if they combine their efforts with the Barrhead Agricultural Society.
The ATA represents over 2,200 trappers and a variety of corporate entities and related businesses within the province. It is also the only government-recognized association for trapping in Alberta.
On March 14, councillors tabled approving a request by the association to discount the rental rates of the Barrhead Agrena to the March 28 council meeting to give administration time to learn if the Ag society is interested in presenting a joint bid.
The association's annual two-day convention and tradeshow in mid to late July usually attracts upwards of 600 people from across the province.
Chief administrative officer Edward LeBlanc said the association is currently kicking the tires of potential host communities and had approached administration, asking them if council would consider discounting the Agrena's facilities, including the arena ice surface, the Charles Godberson Rotary Room and the upstairs meeting room.
Under the town's rate schedule under Policy 72-002 (Recreation Facility Rentals and Rates), the combined rental rate for the three areas would be $1,530.10 per day.
He also noted the association is also interested in using the Ag society's building and grounds for some of the events.
LeBlanc added that earlier this month ATA toured the Agrena with mayor Dave McKenze and parks and recreation director Shallon Touet.
"They certainly like what they saw and asked us to submit a bid," he said, adding later in the meeting the association would like to have an answer by the end of the month.
McKenzie interjected, saying he had an opportunity to go to the tradeshow several years ago and was "suitably impressed."
"They had a huge turnout. It was very family orientated," he said. "And it is a great opportunity for the community to learn about the industry. It is not a bunch of Maritimers clubbing baby seals. They present the industry fairly, in a good light and explain how it all works."
McKenzie said having the association host the tradeshow in Barrhead would be very beneficial to the community, noting the potential competition to be a host community could be rigorous as it moves all over the province.
"We have this opportunity now, and it might be 15 to 20 years before we get another one," he said.
Westlock hosted the event in 2018. This year's Rendezvous will be the 48th annual and will be in Pincher Creek.
Coun. Dave Sawatzky agreed, adding the economic spinoffs would greatly outweigh the costs of reducing the rental rate of the Agrena.
He then asked how aggressive the municipality had to be.
"What do we have to do to get these guys here?" he asked.
McKenzie suggested the town had a lot of wiggle room as Agrena does not generate any revenue at that time of year.
"So anything is better than nothing," he said. "My only concern is that we recover our costs, staff or material. I'm sure they would understand that."
McKenzie noted that historically, as a workaround to the town's facility rental policy, the municipality would grant organizations an in-kind donation.
"So on the books, we haven't breached our policy," he said.
But he cautioned that, regardless of what council decides, the town is only half of the equation, noting that to host the event, the association needs the Ag society's facilities.
Sawatzky suggested that the town partner with the Ag society for a joint bid.
Coun. Dausen Kluin asked if they had any estimate of what the costs to the town would be.
LeBlanc noted they would need more information from the association but the town could set the rental fee to be contingent on the costs involved.
Council informally agreed on this approach.
McKenzie noted the event is also in alignment with the town's efforts to attract tourism through its Better-In-Barrhead campaign.
Barry Kerton, TownandCountryToday.com