Edmonton’s flagship summer fair is evolving, and organizers want the public’s help in shaping its future.
Explore Edmonton, the organization now responsible for producing K-Days, is working on a strategy to “reinvigorate” the annual event. Part of that effort involves a public survey launched Thursday to solicit thoughts on what’s working for the event and what it lacks.
Explore Edmonton vice-president Arlindo Gomes said public feedback is one part of a broader project to “reimagine” K-Days and create a roadmap for changing it in the next three to six years.
“Every great event wants to be relevant with its community, and the only way for us to do that is to really take this time to engage with the community and get as much feedback as we can,” Gomes told Postmedia.
The fair, one of the oldest in Edmonton, has seen declining numbers in recent years. In 2017, more than 816,000 showed up, followed by 808,000 in 2018, and 702,327 in 2019. K-Days was canceled in 2020 and 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Formerly known as the Edmonton Exhibition, the event dates back more than 140 years when it began as an agricultural fair in 1879. It was named Klondike Days in the 1960s and K-Days in 2013 after an unsuccessful effort to rebrand it as Capital Ex in 2006.
A common denominator shared among generations of city residents, the fair is an ingrained part of Edmonton’s history — something the organizers aren’t taking for granted.
“We know that it has — for many people — some deep-rooted experiences and memories that they would like to continue on with,” Gomes said, adding that the forthcoming strategy will honor that history while aiming to reach a wider audience with new programming .
However, fairgoers shouldn’t expect to see those changes at this year’s fair, Gomes said, since programming requires advance planning that begins months before the event.
“This exercise is about staying in touch with the community and making sure this event is delivering the kind of experiences Edmonton and its guests look forward to enjoying now and in the future.”
Stone Olafson, a research consulting firm in Calgary, is conducting the survey, which Gomes said is open for the next three or so weeks.
In the meantime, Explore Edmonton is also seeking feedback from focus groups and interviews with community leaders while drawing ideas from similar events across Canada and North America.
Changes to the fair aren’t the only ones slated for the Exhibition Lands since the City of Edmonton has a 200-acre redevelopment plan for the area in the works.
While the city planned to sell off parcels in the first half of 2022, beginning with land on a southwest portion of the site, the redevelopment plan could take 20 years to 30 years and is pinned to the demolition of Northlands Coliseum, which doesn’t have a clear tear-down date.
Owned by the City of Edmonton, Explore Edmonton is an arm’s-length corporation that works to drive tourism to the region and manages both the Edmonton Expo Center and Edmonton Convention Centre. The organization took over management of K-Days and Farmfair International, an agricultural show, in 2021.
—With files from Postmedia