Agricultural society hoping for clean slate

Okotoks: Society optimistic about future opportunities

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 04, 2014 04:13 pm

The Okotoks Agriculture society is on track to cleaning $600,000 of debt of its books thanks to a new sponsorship agreement and plans to sell part of its land.
The Okotoks Agriculture society is on track to cleaning $600,000 of debt of its books thanks to a new sponsorship agreement and plans to sell part of its land.

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The Okotoks Agricultural Society are hoping to get back on their feet after Foothills MD council approved their request to split off and sell two acres of their property just north of town.

The sale is a last resort for the society to finally get out from under a $600,000 cloud of debt that has been hanging over them since early the 2000s. The society borrowed money to expand the agriplex and deal with a black mould problem in the building.

The agricultural society tried to raise money through two outdoor country concerts, which featured acts like George Canyon, Gord Bamford and Emerson Drive, but society manager Dawn Mitchell said unfortunately they ended up losing money on both of the shows.

“To put on an event like that there’s a lot of cost, and we just didn’t sell enough tickets,” she said. “You can’t pull out, you sign the contact with these artists and they’re coming and that’s it. But we have no regrets on those because you know you have to try, and they were fun nights.”

The group has also seen a reduction in grants and as a result is $600,000 in red ink.

However, the society has taken a few steps to get back in the black.

It reached a new partnership last month with Okotoks Ford Lincoln to sponsor the agriplex, which will be newly named the Okotoks Ford Agriplex.

While they’re on the right track, the society is hoping the sale of two of their almost 20 acres of land will fully take care of their financial troubles.

“That will eliminate our debt and then we can concentrate on maintenance of our existing facility,” Mitchell said. “Cash on cash, we’re doing really well. Rentals are up, but it’s that debt. So once we take care of that we can focus on other things.”

As to what could be in store for the land, Mitchell said they’re leaving their options open. The society works closely with the Calgary Stampede, hosting a number of events for them. During the council meeting, president Jackie Miller brought up the possibility of bringing the renowned Calgary Bull Sale to the area.

MD Councillor Ron Chase was impressed with the agricultural society’s plans.

“I think that’s a big move if they can get that,” he said. “I’m a rancher, so anything that can be done to help motivate that and keep the theme of the west going is important to me.”

Mitchell said that’s what the agricultural society is all about.

“We’re just trying to get back to our agricultural roots, doing things like putting on the cattle shows, because a lot of that is falling by the wayside,” she said. “Particularly in this area because it’s becoming less and less rural, and we would like to hang on to the agricultural part of our history so people in town can be educated a little bit and get back to the basics.”

The society has a busy schedule of events coming up, including a thoroughbred horse show on June 21, a Hereford cattle show on June 28 and the Calgary Stampede penning qualifiers July 2 to 3.


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