A long running P.E.I. tradition, Old Home Week, may be cancelled if the board cannot come to an agreement with its partners.
The board of the P.E.I. Provincial Exhibition, which runs Old Home Week, voted on a motion Wednesday night to "suspend the 2017 edition of Old Home Week pending sufficient support from all partners." The provincial exhibition organizes activities including livestock shows and agricultural displays.
The board said it "feels it cannot operate under the current arrangements which it has been currently presented with."
The partners include Red Shores Racetrack & Casino (operated by the Atlantic Lottery Corporation), the Prince Edward Island Harness Racing Industry Association and the Eastlink Centre.
The dispute comes down to one thing, according to the general manager of the P.E.I. Provincial Exhibition/Old Home Week. Sandra Hodder-Acorn said at issue is the use of the full parking lot for Campbell Amusements' midway.
The parking lot is owned by Red Shores, but during Old Home Week, that's been the location of the rides and games.
Hodder-Acorn said the board of the exhibition had already agreed to give up 15 per cent of the parking lot, just for this year, to make space for the 2017 World Driving Championships and a major harness racing conference taking place the same week.
She said the board wants a guarantee from Red Shores that the midway will have access to the full lot next year and beyond.
"What we're concerned about is, if we're losing 15 per cent now, perhaps in future years, we could lose more of a percentage. With a decrease in the rides, that will decrease the revenue Campbell's brings in, and we get a portion of the revenue."
'My heart is in Old Home Week'
"Basically we cannot lose money anymore," said Strothard Rodd, president of the P.E.I. Provincial Exhibition.
Rodd noted that last year, for the first time, it was free to get in after 9 p.m. for those over 19, and 7,800 people in total went through the gate in those later hours. Hodder-Acorn pointed out the exhibition board had already agreed to that arrangement again this year, but that will mean a loss of revenue.
"We only [have] four places to get money. If you start cutting away at it then we have nothing," said Rodd.
"Old Home Week has been around for 129 years. I've been a director of Old Home Week for about 20-some years. I hate to see it going down the tubes. My heart is in Old Home Week," said Rodd.
Hodder Acorn added that the ultimate hope is that a new governance organization will be formed, combining all the partners.
ALC and harness racing industry respond
The board of the P.E.I. Provincial Exhibition/Old Home Week is standing by its position that it will cancel Old Home Week this year, 2017, if it can't get a deal with Red Shores for next year.
The senior communication counsel for the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, responded Thursday.
"We have received communication from the Provincial Exhibition Board. We are working to understand the concerns and remain supportive of Old Home Week," said Molly Cormier.
Racing to go ahead 'regardless'
"We would like our patrons to be assured that a full slate of racing will occur at Red Shores from August 10-19, 2017," she added.
Wayne Pike, executive director of the Prince Edward Island Harness Racing Industry Association, also responded. "There are issues we've got to resolve, and we'll be doing anything we can to resolve those issues," he said.
"We'll definitely have Old Home Week racing. All that stuff will go forward regardless. It has to. It's too important to our economy," Pike added.
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