It was a cautious opening for The Co-operators Agrim Centre in Rimbey back at the end of June and now they have begun to see more activity.
Agrim manager Tammy Burns explained the facility is naturally slow over the summer, even without the pandemic, and things tend to pick up as fall comes.
“We reopened on June 30, cautiously with a limited number of days for open riding,” Burns said in an interview.
“The priority was and always will be the safety of guests, users and staff. We have an online booking system users sign in on to manage the numbers inside at one time. We have increased cleaning, provide hand sanitizers and leave doors and gates open to minimize touches as much as possible.”
Burns added the facility is continually re-evaluating and will adapt as needed.
As for getting busier, the Agrim’s first big event since March is an Alberta Barrel Racing Association jackpot on Aug. 31.
“Everyone is cautious and understand that limits must happen to mitigate risk,” she said.
“Although some groups had cancelled or postponed events, others are embracing the protocols and moving forward cautiously and responsibly. Users right now are looking for a good alternative after being displaced by the pandemic and some are in a holding pattern.”
That said, it’s also been difficult to plan too far ahead right now as the guidelines can change quickly.
Meanwhile, it’s been an interesting time for Burns, who became the Agrim’s first general manager late last year following Ponoka County coming up with some funds to help the Rimbey Agricultural Society with a plan to improve their operation.
“We had a really productive and busy winter. Large events kept the facility moving and it was interesting to see how successful those events were, which guided me,” said Burns.
“COVID-19 stopped us in our tracks. Though, the pandemic has given me the opportunity to really look at the organization how it has operated in the past — what was successful and how to adapt.”
She stated the Agrim is one of many agricultural facilities in Alberta that are the best in western Canada and that helped when it came to drawing more sponsorship.
“We secured a name sponsor this spring when the The Co-operators stepped up to support the facility,” she said.
“This has created huge recognition as The Co-operators is a brand name and the Rimbey Agriculture Society board is very cohesive and supportive, embracing all the changes for the betterment of the organization and facilities.”
Part of that stemmed from Ponoka County hiring a consultant to assist the board through last year’s renovation of the facility and that the board realized that it wasn’t going to attract and compete with other facilities unless it adapted. That’s how Burns came to be hired.
For her part, Burns is looking forward to helping the Agrim grow and credits the society’s volunteers for laying some great ground work.
“They have a great vision to move forward and spent a tremendous amount of time ensuring the ground work was there succeed,” she said.
“Consistency is the key to success and the Agrim is a fantastic facility and deserves to be someone’s priority. It still has growing pains, but that is all part of the process. With dedicated time and consistency, it will flourish.”
To that end, Burns is presently working on a strong marketing plan to help increase use beyond the area and the usual equine and agricultural groups.
“I feel The Co-operators Agrim Centre is an extremely affordable all-encompassing facility that can host a multitude of events,” she said.
“The community and the town have everything users want to host and events and the atmosphere here is desirable.”
More information is available by heading to rimbeyagrimcentre.com or calling Burns Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at 403-704-9283.