The Royal Manitoba Winter Fair wrapped up in Brandon over the weekend, and organizers say tens of thousands of people eagerly returned after a two-year hiatus, returning to near pre-pandemic attendance.

The Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba says the Fair welcomed close to 43,000 people through its gates last week at Brandon’s Keystone Centre.

After having been forced to cancel both the 2020 and 2021 events, the Exhibition expected numbers to be down this year but were encouraged by the strong turnout. 

“To do what we did in a short period of time was quite remarkable,” said Exhibition President Kathy Cleaver. “Once we decided to move forward, we committed ourselves to making this a great show and I’m satisfied that we did just that.”

“I saw a lot of smiling faces this past week and having seen so many friends, who haven’t seen one another for some time, getting together makes me happy,” added Cleaver.

In 2019, over 50,000 went through the turnstiles.

Last week’s fair marked the first large-scale event held in western Manitoba since the province lifted most of its COVID restrictions in February.

“We’re so fortunate to have had so much support during these trying times,” noted Cleaver. “To think that in February we didn’t know if we’d be able to host the Fair….just a great job by everyone in helping to pull this off in such a short period of time.”

The Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba will now focus on the annual Summer Fair, scheduled for this June.