The Red River Ex is doing what it can to ensure patrons of all ages enjoy the excitement and community of Winnipeg’s annual fair.
"A lot of the thinking is, how can we engage families and have fun?" said CEO Garth Rogerson.
While the Ex offers a variety of experiences catered to older folks — like the quilting contest, model train exhibit and a senior talent show — Rogerson wanted to sweeten the deal, so he introduced a senior’s day discount.
On Wednesday, the Ex offered people over the age of 55 reduced admission and free rides on some attractions, including the ferris wheel.
Rogerson was inspired to dedicate the day to seniors after remembering the joy the exhibition brought his father when he returned later in his life, he said.
"The basis of a fair is it is supposed to be for the community," he said. "It’s not just for kids. It’s for everybody."
When the fairgrounds opened at 3 p.m. Wednesday, elderly couple Ellinor and Helmut Heldt took in the familiar sights, sounds and smells.
Before the pandemic, the pair — who are 76 and 82 — regularly attended. The senior’s discount only added to their motivations to return, Ellinor said, adding that seeing the fairgrounds full of children reminded her of a time when she and Helmut took their own children.
Less than an hour later, the couple took their seats for the senior talent show hosted by CJNU Nostalgia Radio, a non-profit station that caters to an older audience.
The act featured an Elvis impersonator, an all-female barbershop quartet and a ventriloquism show.
When the show ended, they planned to take the exhibition up on its offer of a free ride on the ferris wheel.
"We may be old, but we’re not (too old)," Ellinor said with a laugh.
For Lil and George Goertzen, it was the first time they had returned to the Ex in a decade. The couple was pleased with what they found, they said.
"It’s nice that there’s opportunity for (older) people to come… it’s just fun to be back," Lil said, adding the Elvis impersonation by Indigenous comedian Gerry Barrett was one of the highlights of her night.
Having entertainment earlier in the day was a benefit to people who may be less comfortable on the fairgrounds at night, Lil said.
The Ex opened June 17 and will wrap up Sunday at 10 p.m.
By Monday, ticket revenue was up 58 per cent compared to day four in 2019.
"It’s trending very well, which writes a good story for the rest of the week, Rogerson said.