LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- Effective immediately, Lethbridge’s Exhibition Park is enforcing mandatory screenings of all organizations involved in its weekly farmers market, due to a recent increase in active COVID cases in the region.

The County of Warner, a large area that extends from Raymond/Stirling to the U.S. border, saw a sudden jump in cases last week, and currently has 41 active cases. The increase is possibly linked to funerals held last month. 

A number of southern Alberta Hutterite colonies sell fresh produce and farm goods at farmers markets.

Mike Warkentin, Exhibition Park CEO, said the organization is monitoring the situation very closely. “We have had one vendor that we’ve asked not to come back to the market this season as a result of the increasing cases.”

Warkentin did not identify the vendor.

When the farmers market opened in May, a number of changes were put in place to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, including increased spacing and social distancing. Exhibition Park is also encouraging vendors to wear masks, and where-ever possible switch to debit or touchless payment methods instead of cash.

“We are seeing more and more of that touchless transaction as the consumer adapts to it,” said Warkentin.

The new screening measures come as Exhibition Park prepares to reopen its downtown farmers market, likely at a new location, due to construction at Festival Square on 3rd Avenue South.

Weekend drive-in concert

Exhibition Park is also getting set to host the first of two drive-in events that are scheduled for this summer. Country star Gord Bamford is putting on a pair of drive-in concerts Saturday evening in support of mental health.

The events are sponsored by ATB. Tickets are $65 for a vehicle of four people, and $110 for front section VIP parking, with all proceeds going to Lethbridge Family Services and Woods Homes to support mental health initiatives and LFS online counselling.

Michelle Gallucci, LFS Director of Advancement & Communications said the organization has hired additional counsellors in response to an increased number of calls relating to COVID, “What I understand is that the mental health issues stemming from the anxiety of what happened to their jobs and schooling is going to last for at least two years. So we need to be on this.”

Bamford was scheduled to perform at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge at the end of October. But that concert has been postponed until 2021, and Bamford’s website is promoting the drive-in experience to ticket buyers.

New West Theatre is also planning a full scale musical review called “Live at the Drive-In” at Exhibition Park from August 12 to August 16.

Exhibition Park

'New look' Whoop Up Days

Exhibition Park is also working on plans for a COVID-style Whoop-Up Days this summer. Warkentin said the event will certainly be different from what people have experienced in the past, but organizers are currently working on plans for a new kind of five day experience.

“We look forward to engaging the community in unique ways this year that will abide by social distancing, but still see the spirit of Whoop-Up Days live on.”

Warkentin said they hope to reveal those plans before the end of July.