BCNE may be canceled due to wildfires

The future of the 2017 edition of the British Columbia Northern Exhibition (BCNE) could go up in smoke.

Right now the fair grounds, the barns and the Kin Centres are all being used by wildfire evacuees, with no end in sight.

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The BCNE, which first started in 1912 as the Prince George Exhibition, is set this year for Aug. 17 to 20, but could be canceled for the first time since 1942 when the war effort eclipsed the fair.

The first cancellation took place in 1914 with the declaration of the First World War, then lack of funding saw the 1918 fair canceled, while it was a lack of interest that saw no fair in 1926.

This year, the Cariboo wildfires may keep the gates closed.

"As of today, the fair is still moving forward but we've spoken about it and we're definitely getting close to the point where we have to make a decision," Alex Huber, president of the BCNE, said Tuesday. "The fair grounds are full of evacuees and the barns are full of animals - the fair grounds are being used at this time."

The board meets next Tuesday night and Huber will make a motion to vote on the decision to cancel the fair then.

"It's just a fair - humans are always more important," Huber added. "We've got to take care of each other first. That's more important. So it is what it is and it's going to be really difficult to try to regroup if we miss one fair because that's our revenue - we'll be missing all that money this year but what do you do? It's beyond our control."

Quesnel's Billy Barker Days and SkyFest air show, have been canceled because of the wildfires.

To guarantee entertainment for the fair, there is a required 50 per cent deposit made up front.

"That's gone," Huber said. "And again - what do you do? The further we move forward, the more it's going to cost because once these guys show up they're expecting to get paid."

Less than a month from the fair date, budgets are already stretched, Huber said.

"Me and my kids are the maintenance crew right now," he added.

"We're really stretched to the limit and to do it within a couple of days - it's just not doable. Even if they put the fires out tomorrow, it's probably going to be a week before the evacuees are allowed to go home and then we have to clean the fair grounds, the Kins and the barns before we can even begin to set up for the fair, so we're almost out of time."

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