Northlands to cease operations, Explore Edmonton to manage K-Days

EDMONTON — Explore Edmonton is taking over K-Days and Farmfair International as of July 5 and Northlands is ceasing its operations.

Explore Edmonton interim CEO Maggie Davidson said the city agency will take on the responsibility “with a mandate to reimagine and reinvent” the events. While she called the new chapter an exciting one, Davidson noted in an announcement on Thursday “the moment is very bittersweet.” 

Northlands — the non-profit organization that would later host the NHL at its Coliseum and horse racing at its track — originated in 1879, first as a livestock and farm exhibition. 

But recently, the organization faced many challenges which were exacerbated by the pandemic, according to president and CEO of two years Peter Male. He said the organization was in the middle of figuring out how to breath new life into K-Days and Farmfair International when COVID-19 “just wiped us off the map.” 

“We were looking at the picture from a high level and going, ‘Look, there’s duplication of infrastructure, duplication of costs all over the place,” Male recalled.

He added it “made good sense” for the city’s tourism department to take them on since it had begun to manage operations of the EXPO Centre. 

“(Northlands) has left an indelible mark on Edmonton and will always be a treasured part of the city’s history.

“We are all very proud of the legacy of our organization, a legacy that truly belongs to the dedicated staff, the tireless volunteers who have sustained Northlands for almost a century and a half. On behalf of everyone at Northlands, I want to sincerely thank them for their dedication to the organization and to Edmonton.” 

FARMFAIR 2021 A GO

Davidson declined to reveal Explore Edmonton’s plans for Northlands employees, saying the details were still being worked through. 

As for the thousands of volunteers who help put on the big events, she said they would be contacted about remaining involved. 

Of the future vision for the summer festival and agriculture exhibition, she said Explore Edmonton would be looking for the public’s feedback over the summer. 

“We’ll definitely be building back Farmfair International to its former glory because we do take pride in our agriculture activities, and we want EXPO and Edmonton to be the place for the future of Farmfair International,” Davidson commented, confirming plans that event would go forward in the fall. 

“It will likely look a little different than previous years, but we think it’s important to let partners and stakeholders know we do plan to move ahead.” 

And K-Days 2022 “needs to be nothing short of spectacular,” Davidson said. Northlands cancelled K-Days 2021 on June 1, citing a “hard look” at whether it “could deliver a high-quality event given limited timelines and resources.”

Because Explore Edmonton hadn’t, at the time, planned on putting on Farmfair, it will be making a funding request of the city, its CEO confirmed. 

In 2020, the City of Edmonton asked Explore Edmonton and Northlands to look at the feasibility of working together to host K-Days and Farmfair International, and what was the most sustainable path forward for both the organization and the events. Over the winter, the parties confirmed publicly they were exploring options. 

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