Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
TRADE Fair without ontethe (children) is not the same. Covid-19, the global pandemic, resulted in children below the age of 18 miss the biggest and busiest day of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) public day in Bulawayo.
The four-day event, which was officially opened by the President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday, ended yesterday.
Something was missing, one could sense it, there were no children. There were no young mischievous human beings running aimlessly, excitedly around stands, with parents frantically trying to catch up and control them. There were no giggles, laughs and cries from children, with faces painted in various designs and colours. There were no little faces, with mouths generously covered by the remnants of a bright-coloured ice cream, or eating toffee apples or a big ball of candy floss.
It was an annual showcase under the new normal, where face masks, vaccination cards and the other paraphernalia associated with the times were being used to gain entry.
This was the first ZITF in the Covid-19 era, after last year’s edition was cancelled, as the pandemic was ravishing the world and Zimbabwe, Bulawayo in particular was not spared.
Companies bore the brunt at the time and one of the landmark days in Bulawayo’s leisure calendar for a long time was disrupted.
This year, the ZITF seemed destined to be tanked, as the Covid-19 pandemic was and is still ripping through the world due to numerous postponements by the authorities as they were cautious in their approach to open business and the economy.
In years gone by, the public day during the ZITF, was a time for families to spend the day together, viewing the major highlights of the ZITF, such as visiting the Bulawayo Agricultural Society to see livestock, birds and other animals.
It was a time that people set aside perhaps a Friday or a Saturday for them to visit the Zimbabwe International Exhibition Centre.
As early as 7AM, in days gone by, gates will be teeming with hordes of people waiting to pay to enter or those who had bought tickets in advance at various points in the city.
It was a better idea to buy advance tickets, besides them being a tad bit cheaper; so as to save one the hassles of waiting in the queue for hours on end just to gain entry into the ZITF.
And inside, thousands of people will be walking around the place visiting all the halls that contain various displays from different companies.
This year, entering the ZITF was a breeze, as long as someone had a ticket, they were just sanitised, their temperature checked and they were good to go. They could be done with visiting the whole of the exhibition centre in an hour, two hours at the most.
Oh, and another thing, because there were not many people and there were no children, cases of lost children were non-existent.
Before the pandemic, it was the norm that on national radio stations that will be broadcasting live at the ZITF or on the blare speakers that there is a child who is lost and cannot find their parents.
Since those who are prone to be lost are perhaps below the age of 10, this year with the age allowed being above 18, it could have happened by chance, but this was slim or none at all.
Because of the subdued numbers and the absence of children, it was low business for those selling food stuffs, such as ice cream and fast food. Mostly those buying were exhibitors or the adults and their grown children who managed to visit the exhibition centre.
What was interesting to note is that some adults visited various sites at the exhibition centre like the Coca-Cola fountain, and took pictures there or the high rising information centre.
The Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ stand was ever popular which had a helicopter, motorbikes and an army vehicle that people posed for pictures with.
What this Trade Fair revealed is that children are the epicentre of the public days. Parents take their children to the ZITF and because of Covid-19, this might have been the reason why organisers put the age cap. Also, this could have been a way to control numbers.
Even the archaic Luna Park was missing, with its games and rides tailor-made for the children showed that they make the ZITF tick.
Hopefully next year, they will be allowed to visit the ZITF because the public days are not the same without ontethe.
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