We met a bunch of friends at the #yeg Capital Ex today. I used to love going to the exhibition however this year's incarnation left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
I'll ignore the ridiculous lineups to get in at this point (just a note Northlands time spent in lines is time people are not spending money).
Yes I think the re-branding from the original Klondike Days was a huge failure. All the rebranding did did was take an event that while silly and historically inaccurate had a lot of fun and unique features steeped in decades of tradition and strip it away leaving nothing to replace it. In order to rebrand something you need to have a plan to replace or create something special to make people forget about the old brand.
Walking through the ex today it is clear that Northlands has completely failed in every way to do this. It takes more than a flashy logo to replace years of (totally silly) tradition. There was not a single item on the grounds today that would have identified the exhibition as being in Edmonton. In fact you could go to any city that has this type of event and everything would be exactly the same.
Whats amazing is Northlands managed to ruin the whole City wide list of classic klondike events with this re-branding and we all allowed it.
Missing this year was the artists area (the small one in the multicultural hall hardly counts) the lion's dream home and critically to me at least the many charity raffles and lotteries. It was always a big part of the event for me was entering into those lottos. I would bounce from area to area to make sure my tickets were evenly distributed amongst the various booths. My mom and dad would usually give me a 20 to spend on tickets and a candy apple for mom. They wouldn't come to the ex themselves as my mom has trouble walking and with soo many people it was a really big hassle for her to get around.
Without them the event seems even more hollow and consumeristic than ever. The only flash of Edmonton you get is with the armed forces booth and the multicultural exhibit. Everything else is just pre-packaged slop with an occasionally flashy new package. The pineapple whip was still delicious however.
Northland's President Richard Anderson has been talking to any news group that will listen about needing to add technology and flash to replace the outdated elements of the ex. This is where he and the Northlands organization as a whole is really missing the boat. This is supposed to be an exhibition for the City of Edmonton not the Northlands committee think tank.
Lets take back what should be our great opportunity to showcase all of the amazing elements that make up this place. Edmonton's many festivals big and small routinely showcase the best elements we have to offer as a city. Shouldn't our biggest city event do the same? Why can't we cherry pick the best elements of all of our other amazing festivals to show people we are more than just a city of champions.
Why cant we have an exhibition that features Edmonton front and centre? Hundreds of booths of local artists and crafts people. A market with food from local producers. Food competitions every night in a different category. An area with our many food trucks.
We have a very vibrant and talented performing arts scene. Lets have a stage to showcase local singers dancers actors and playwrights. Events sprinkled throughout the city and a renewed focus on events that showcase our jewel of a river valley.
Lets bring back some of the classic Klondike events. Yes they didn't make much sense but they were ours and you know what, why take yourself so seriously?
Lets have pancake breakfasts and beer gardens run by leaders in our major industries in support of local charities. An olde time dance for those who want to wear the Klondike finery that they have had to lock away for the last 5 years. To bring it to reality into it how about an interactive display featuring Edmonton's famous settlers.
Lets invite our thriving multicultural groups, first nations and LGBTQ organizations to help put together events and show what a rich vibrant community we have here.
Edmonton exists at a crossroads of the oil and gas industry, the higher education industry, the military and is home to some exciting technology and architecture firms. Lets give them all a chance to shine during our biggest exhibition of the year.
Lets make the fair with its rides and footlong corndogs be an important but overall smaller part of our Exhibition. Based on the articles I have read about the ex recently there seems to be more and more people wishing that the ex provides more than just fatty foods laser shows and new rides. We will need a critical mass of people to take this event back and make it great again.