On Thursday, the IAFE Board of Directors authorized cancellation of the live trade show scheduled for November 29 through December 2, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. The organization cited the economic devastation suffered to the fair industry in 2020 due to the pandemic as one of its reasons for cancelling the event.
In an e-mail sent to exhibitors of the show, IAFE officials stated:
"Unfortunately, COVID-19 is taking its toll on the event. The economic devastation to our industry is just too much – people cannot travel to the live event – whether for lack of funds or travel restrictions in their state or country."
In place of the live event, the IAFE will be hosting a virtual trade show complete with a marketplace, educational sessions, and the ability to network with fair members and peers.
Below is the official press release from the IAFE.
2020 IAFE Annual Convention Cancelled
SPRINGFIELD – Due to the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic upon the fair industry, the annual Convention & Trade Show of the International Association of Fairs & Expositions (IAFE) scheduled for Nov. 29-Dec. 2 in San Antonio, Texas has been cancelled.
With regulatory restrictions making it impossible for over 90% of the IAFE members' fairs to go forward in normal fashion, the economic losses to fairs and the hundreds of businesses involved have been devastating. Additionally, nearly 60% of projected participants are currently unable to travel either due to the quarantine restrictions upon return to their state or country, or employer travel restrictions.
“With the added uncertainty regarding the potential arc of the disease not only in Texas but across the United States over the next two months, it is the prudent thing to do,” stated IAFE President and CEO Marla Calico.
IAFE Chair Nancy Smith of the South Carolina State Fair in Columbia praised the work of the 2020 Convention Program Committee, which has been meeting virtually nearly every month for nearly two years to first develop a program and then swiftly pivoting to adapt to the evolving situation to develop alternatives.
“This group of dedicated volunteers, led with such enthusiasm and optimism by our Committee Chair jill Albanese of the Wisconsin State Fair, has poured their hearts and souls into our ‘2020 Clear Vision' programming and we have every confidence they will help the IAFE staff fine tune plans for the delivery of a series of educational presentations and virtual networking discussions to be scheduled Nov. 30-Dec. 1. Vision is what we need now more than ever as we seek to provide alternative solutions to keep members connected, striving forward, and #FAIRSTRONG in these difficult times. Our industry is extremely fortunate to have the leadership, passion, and dedication of the IAFE staff. I know of no other industry that has been afforded the necessary and critical resources to help navigate in such unknown territory. Marla Calico and her team are to be commended for their untiring efforts on our behalf,” stated Smith.
IAFE Director of Sales Steve Siever reported that despite significant interest from associate members in participating in the trade show, it was impractical to go forward with so many people from the fairs unable to attend.
“Everyone in the event business has seen such devastating economic losses, yet their passion for the industry and their drive to go forward and work with fairs in 2021 and beyond remains. We are working right now to finalize an innovative and creative means of connecting these businesses with fair folk during December,” stated Siever.
Like most fair members, the IAFE has to adapt to a less than ideal situation. Fairs are the heartbeat of their communities. Even when many could not hold their annual events in 2020, they continue to serve their community. Whether it is hosting a blood drive or drive-thru coronavirus testing, providing shelter from wildfires, or offering space for drive-in movies, fairs have reflected and met their communities' needs. The Agricultural Fairs Rescue Act, H.R. 7883, is a bill in Congress that would provide relief to fairs serving the people in their community.
The IAFE will hold an online educational event called Virtual Vision to provide important educational and networking opportunities for its members. Virtual Vision will be held Nov. 30-Dec. 1. Stay tuned for more details at www.fairsandexpos.com/Virtual-Vision.
The 2021 IAFE Convention and Trade Show remains scheduled to be held in San Antonio, Nov. 28-Dec. 1.