Roughly three years after reporting a loss of $433,662, the Prince Albert Exhibition Association is comfortably back in the black.
The Exhibition reported a profit of $181,477 for the last financial year, which ended on September 30, 2022. The financial update presented by Exhibition GM Deb Despins showed the organization had more than $1 million in net assets, including $593,392 in cash.
In 2021, the association reported $842,692 in net assets, including $278,392 in cash. The 2019 audited financial report showed the Exhibition had $209,000 in cash.
PAEX general manager Deb Despins called the turnaround a substantial increase while presenting the report at the Exhibition annual general meeting Wednesday evening.
“This was a whole board pulling together, and the staff as well, working hard to just make ends meet,” said Despins, who presented the financial report because the Exhibition’s auditor was attending a wedding. “This place has been around since 1885, so it certainly wasn’t going to (close down) on our watch. It’s awesome and we’re happy things are back on track.”
The 2022 financial year also marked a significant increase compared to 2021, when the Exhibition reported a $39,000 profit. The biggest reasons were the return of the PAEX, which drew more than 30,000 attendees in 2022, and the paying off of two major loans.
The Exhibition took out two $100,000 loans before COVID hit, one of which went towards major kitchen and bar renovations in the Exhibition Hall. There were also water main breaks near the cattle barns that set the organization back.
Despins said they’ve paid off the entire $100,000 renovation loan, and have almost entirely paid off another $100,000 equipment loan, and that’s helped the organization get out of the red.
“It was a tough uphill road, but we pulled together and it’s been awesome,” she said.
The Exhibition also received a boost from the Prince Albert Grand Council. The PAGC started holding more events on the grounds after the Senator Allen Bird Memorial Centre burned down in April 2022.
Incoming Exhibition president and Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said those extra bookings amounted to another 30-40 days of rental fees for using the Exhibition Hall.
“That’s a big number for us and we appreciate and thank them for that,” Dionne said. “It’s going to take them two years to rebuild, so we’ll have that…. Sometimes you get unexpected benefits, but you have to take that opportunity.”
Dionne said they want to expand the number of events held at the Exhibition grounds so they’ll have something to replace those PAGC dates. Ideally, he’d like to see a mini-Agribition similar to the event hosted in Regina, also with more farm equipment shows and farming exhibits.
“I think there’s going to be a few more ups and downs because they (the PAGC) are going to build a new centre, so we’re going to lose those days,” Dionne said. “But, we have quite a few thinkers and we’re going to think about putting more shows on, more events, and get more involved.”
With one $100,000 loan paid off and another near completion, the Exhibition board has turned its attention to finding new members and repairing some of the old buildings on the Exhibition grounds.
The biggest concern is the old Octagon Building, which was built in 1905, and has significant problems with its roof. Despins said there are also problems with the windows and electrical wiring. The board has already started applying for grants to help cover the cost of repairs.
Despins said the goal is to turn it into a museum and education centre, and she’s confident they have the community’s support.
“We are really in need to get that Octagonal Building up and running again,” she said. “I think the general public sees this as a heritage building. It’s been around since 1905 and it is in real need of repair. We’ve had engineering reports done with Prakesh Engineering. We’re very grateful for that and now I think we need to focus on getting that building preserved for the future and our youth.”
Dionne said his focus will be on getting new members to join the board and finding ways to increase their funding. They filled five open three-year term positions by acclimation on Wednesday, but none of the open two-year positions were filled due to a lack of candidates.
The new board members are educational assistant Kim Jackson, who also works for the Mintos Minor Hockey Association, businessman Roy McDougall, who is also heavily involved in the Prince Albert Pony Chariot and Chuckwagon Association, bookkeeper Bobbi Bell, businessman Cody Demerais, and business relationship advisor Jacy Gitzel, who also breeds, rides, and shows Quarter and Paint horses on a ranch west of Prince Albert with her husband and daughter.
McDougall will serve as first vice-president, with Debbie Schreiner as second. Dale Shillington and Roger Mayert will serve as directors-at-large.
“We’re still three short for board members, but the biggest thing, of course, for every organization, especially us, (is) we need more funding,” Dionne said. “We have quite a few structures on this property and we just got a roof report done. We need like $750,000 just to repair all the rooves on the buildings, so we have our task.”
Dionne first joined the Exhibition board in 2020, but enters his first term as president. He said the board has been great to work with, and he’s excited about what they’ll do in 2023.
“All the things that we do here, they’re all fun,” he said. “There’s no pressure, so actually, for me as the mayor, it’s sort of a pleasure for me to come here. I get to do things during the exhibition. I give away water and deal with horses and things you never did, and then the Polka Fest and trade shows, so it’s just totally different and I get to meet people so I’m excited about it.”
The Prince Albert Exhibition will run from Aug. 1-5. The Exhibition’s other major event, Polka Fest, will run from Aug. 25-27.