Ticket sales for Bill Clinton's speech Saturday at the CNE have been much slower than expected, forcing organizers to reconfigure the stadium layout and offer fairgoers $5 tickets at the door.
About 7,000 advance tickets are sold for the 4 p.m. event, a far cry from the 25,000 people expected when it was announced two weeks ago.
"I'm the eternal optimist. I thought we were just going to sell like crazy at the very beginning and it looks like we're going to sell more towards the end of this sales cycle," said David Bednar, general manager of the Canadian National Exhibition. "I can almost guarantee that we will not sell out."
The tickets, which include fair admission, sell for $20, $40 and $50. The $50 seats are gone, but there are thousands of the cheaper tickets available. Fairgoers who pay regular admission on Saturday will be able to buy a Clinton admission ticket at the stadium for as little as $5.
Mr. Bednar said a number of factors may have hurt ticket sales. Mr. Clinton's appearance, which is partly funded by a $3-million grant from Ottawa's tourism stimulus fund, was confirmed on Aug. 11, giving the Ex just two weeks to market it at a time when many people are away, he said.
The fair is also limited in how it advertises Mr. Clinton's speech because of an agreement that states the former president's name and image can't be used alongside ticket pricing information.
That provision, meant to protect Mr. Clinton's brand, has resulted in some awkward CNE ads that feature the title of the speech - Embracing Our Community Humanity - and admission prices, without any reference to the speaker.
"That's just the rules of the game," Mr. Bednar said.
Mr. Clinton will leave for Canada after the funeral in Boston for Senator Edward Kennedy. The RCMP, working with the Secret Service, will provide security for Mr. Clinton upon his arrival.
A challenge for Clinton watchers may end up being the weather - rain is forecast for Saturday.
Mr. Bednar would not confirm how much Mr. Clinton is being paid, but on average he earns about $175,000 (U.S.) per speaking engagement.
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