Niagara Regional Exhibition isn’t taking a political stance by allowing a two-day Freedom Tour event to set up at its Welland fairgrounds site this weekend.
That’s according to Mike Gill, president of Niagara Regional Agricultural Society, the organization that operates the site on Niagara Street.
“No one formally opposed it,” he said about event needing approval from the society board.
The event, a “Unity Truck Show,” will run Friday night and Saturday, featuring a number of guest speakers who will discuss “issues they believe in,” said Gill.
“We’re not about to get political in any way. That’s not our place,” said Gill, adding the society is not “picking sides” in the COVID-19 debate.
Events have mostly been non-existent at the fairgrounds since the pandemic started and the society needs the money the event will generate.
“We’re just looking for some rental income,” said Gill.
In 2020, there were “no rentals at all,” which equated to a loss of about $24,000.
In a normal year, the society’s annual budget is about $100,000, with three quarters of that amount coming from one building being rented full time, as well as storage fees for people who keep things such as boats and cars there during the winter.
In 2021, there were four or five events that brought in no more than $9,000 in rental fees, said Gill.
On top of the annual exhibition on the first weekend of June, several other events are on the roster for a full schedule this year, he said.
Asked if the society’s board is concerned about backlash from people who disagree with the messages expected to be shared on the weekend, Gill didn’t seem worried.
“It doesn’t matter what we do. Someone is always unhappy. That’s just the world we live in,” he said.
According to promotional material on social media, the event will include bouncy castles, face-painting and games, part of a “kids fest.”
According to the Freedom Tour website, a “group of like-minded individuals dedicated to spreading the truth of what is happening in our country” will be attending.
A section of the website says the group is “still carrying on about freedom,” due to rules regarding unvaccinated Canadians crossing borders.
People losing jobs due to vaccine mandates is another concern the group shares on its website.