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Edmonton Airshow grounded two years in a row

Pandemic made performance impossible, says organizer
1507 AirshowCancle DR107
NOT CLEARED FOR LANDING — Guests will have to wait another year before they can pose by big planes at Villeneuve Airport now that the 2020 Edmonton Airshow has been cancelled due to the pandemic. It's the second year in a row that the show has been called off; this shot was from the 2018 show. DAN RIEDLHUBER/St. Albert Gazette

It’s official: this summer’s Edmonton Airshow at Villeneuve Airport has been called off due to the pandemic.

Edmonton Airshow president Richard Skermer announced July 15 that the 2020 airshow at Villeneuve Airport was cancelled.

It’s the second cancellation in a row for the event – the 2019 show was grounded because the fields were too wet for cars. Customers for that show had been told their tickets would be valid at this year’s event.

This year’s show has been in doubt ever since April 23 when Alberta chief medical officer Deena Hinshaw banned all summer events and festivals due to their potential to spread COVID-19. As of July 13, outdoor events in Alberta were capped at 200 people – far below the 40,000 the airshow typically draws.

Skermer said organizers thought about painting really big parking spots on the airport’s fields so guests could watch from their cars while staying the recommended two metres apart, but realized this would spread guests over such a huge area that some wouldn’t be able to see the planes. Bathrooms, food trucks, and insurance were also issues.

The NHL was another problem, Skermer continued. Edmonton was set to host scores of hockey players this summer as one of the league’s two hub cities, and that would tie up many of the security assets needed to run an airshow.

The biggest problem was the performers, Skermer said.

“There’s no airplanes to have for an airshow.”

Canada’s two big local acts, the Snowbirds and the CF-18 Demo Team, were both grounded due to the pandemic, Skermer explained. 

American performers (which make up about 70 per cent of airshow acts) couldn't get here because the Canada/U.S. border was closed to non-essential travel. Any international performer who did get here would have to sit in quarantine for 14 days – something few pilots were willing to do.

Last month’s surge in Edmonton COVID-19 cases was the final nail in the coffin, Skermer said. He and his team pulled the plug on this year’s show on July 3.

“It’s not safe for many reasons, and if people are not going to be comfortable, what’s the point in doing it?” Skermer said.

In an email, Mayor Alanna Hnatiw said the decision to cancel the airshow was disappointing, but the right call, given the current safety and economic realities.

“As the host and partner, we’re looking forward to 2021 and the return of this world-class event.”

Keep your tickets

Skermer confirmed he plans to hold the airshow again in 2021, and tickets from 2019 would be honoured then (tickets for this year’s show never went on sale). Anyone who wanted a refund would have to wait until a lawsuit between the airshow and its insurance provider over cancellation insurance was settled.

Skermer said he hoped the airshow would become the showcase venue for Alberta’s aerospace industry next year through the Strategic Aviation Council – a new industry advocacy group created by the province this year through Bill 201.

While the council won’t actually form until Dec. 31, Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried (who tabled Bill 201) said in an email that initial chats with Edmonton Airshow officials had been encouraging, and “the proposition of the re-branded Alberta International Airshow does align with the objectives of the Council.”

Skermer said his group was already planning the 2021 airshow, which would likely involve many sanitation stations and a spread-out audience.

“Hold onto your horses; 2021 is going to be amazing.”

Visit for updates.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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