September 21, 2016
By Gilbert VandenHeuvel
Fall Fairs have long been a tradition in the rural community. Fairs have been happening in our area since early pioneers days. The 10th oldest Ontario fair is in Fergus which started in 1836.
A little Fergus Fall Fair History: During the mid-1800s, the fair was a one-day event that included showings of cattle, horses, sheep and pigs as well as roots and vegetables, fruits, dairy produce (namely butter) and ladies’ fancywork. The day ended with a Show Dinner. The fair expanded to two days by 1870. In the early 1900s, the fair included a school children’s exhibit and began to introduce entertainment such as the Guelph Musical Society’s Band. While agriculture is still the focus of the fair, over the years it has grown to include truck and tractor pulls, midway entertainment, handicraft and food exhibits and more. The Fergus Fall Fair is truly a showcase of the talent among the Centre Wellington community and today’s volunteers are proud to be continuing an event with such a rich local history. Click HERE to visit their website.
Pictured above is the London Western fair in it’s early years.
City fairs and carnivals usually happen in the summer, so what’s with this tradition of having fairs in September and October out here in the country?
Weather it was the competitive spirit among early pioneers or the need to get together as a community, or a mixture of the two, early fall fairs centered around animal and produce competitions.
Farmers wanted to show off their best pulling horse or productive sow along with the challenge of growing the best carrots or apples in the area. That competitive spirit still prevails today with 4H competitions going on strong, pumpkin growing is taken very serious and many other contests of quilts, pies, and variations of rural art.
The busy, harvest time of the year is about to begin but there should be some time of celebration of rural life and plain old fun. Our gardens have been growing all summer, so why not enjoy the fruits of our labours.
A few Fair facts from an article in the Hamilton Spectator & Festivals and Events Ontario:
More than 230 agricultural societies operate fairs and exhibitions in Ontario according to the Ontario Agricultural Society
The Guinness World Record for the heaviest pumpkin is 821.23 kilograms (1,810 pounds, 8 ounces) and measured 4.73 meters or 15 feet 6 inches in circumference at the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Minnesota last year.
At most fall fairs in Canada, first place is a red ribbon, second is blue, but that is reversed in the U.S.
Ontario festivals and events are estimated to annually drive $2.3 billion in contribution to regional GPD
Canada’s festival and event industry supports 50,000 full-time jobs
There are over 2,500 member events that happen across Ontario annually
For the whole Hamilton Spectator article click HERE.
To my surprise there are a number of organizations that help communities with the task of hosting a fall fair. Each of these sites have lists to help you find a local fall fair or make a weekend of visiting to a fair in your home town or a town you’ve always wanted to visit but never did.
Here are some:
http://www.ontariofairs.com/ (focuses on rural fairs)
One that I recommend is Lang Pioneer Village. This is a very well run celebration of early rural innovation and respect for their fortitude. My visit there this summer was very enjoyable and informative so a twilight guided tour would be even better. Visit their web site HERE.
Peterborough is near by for a nice meal and overnight stay. For a great BBQ meal, try Dr J’s BBQ and Brews. Find them HERE.
The biggest fall gathering just started. The International Plowing Match. There is plenty to see and do at the IPM, not only during the day, but also at night. To visit the website with all the details click HERE.
Today being the last day of summer, winter is coming whether we like it or not, why not enjoy the fall with the neighbours at a fair. Pick one from the following list all happening this weekend:
Lindsay Ancaster Carp
Stratford Sydenham Coldwater
Drumbo Forest Glenco
GrandValley Huntsville Milton
Ripley Roseneath Thorndale