The New Brunswick Provincial Exhibition is dropping its cover charge in a bid to attract double the fairgoers it's seen in past years.
This year, it will be free to get into the 10-day event, which kicks off on Friday night, rather than on Labour Day as it usually does, said Mike Vokey, executive director of the exhibition.
And while the organization will be missing out on about $300,000 it typically generates from admission fees, it's hoping to make up for that by attracting 80,000 people over the week-and-a-half.
Normally, a ticket to the exhibition would cost $10, or $27 for a family.
"We're thinking if we draw more people, there will be more money spent on the rides and then part of the revenue when you buy the ride ticket ... goes to the fair," Vokey said. "So that will compensate probably for a third or more [of the lost admission revenue]."
Last year, COVID-19 restrictions forced organizers to turn the exhibition into a virtual event, with shows and performances streamed online for viewers at home.
The province has lifted restrictions during the green phase of recovery.
This year, Vokey said, the exhibition will have some events online still but will bring back in-person attractions such as the cattle show, the deep-fried hotdog known as the dippy dog, and midway rides.
"I think this year we're going to see people that'll come for their dippy-dogs, or come for food, or they may enjoy the rides multiple times, whereas before, they could maybe only afford to come once.
"We knew when, when we came out of COVID, the impact was going to be hard on families, local businesses and all of New Brunswick and so... what we came up with was free gate admission to invite everybody to come in and and really, really celebrate."
Vokey said with most of the attractions being held outdoors, volunteers and staff will be keeping track of the number of people entering, but will only require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for persons attending scheduled indoor events.
Also different this year is the fact that the exhibition will start on Friday evening, rather than on Labour Day.
Vokey said that was done because the midway ride providers weren't busy with other fairs this summer, so were able to set up in Fredericton earlier than they normally could.
"We've got a full fare. We have the rides, we've got the animals, we've the entertainment, and we're producing the only fair in Atlantic Canada. So as a result of that, the midway [provider] was able to get here earlier."
Events will run daily from Friday until Sept. 12, and feature a fireworks show on Monday, along with a petting farm, magic show, and live musical performances.