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Houghton Fair celebrates a 165-year tradition in Fairground

By Chris Abbott, Postmedia Network

Stan McIntyre, president of the Houghton Agricultural Society.

Stan McIntyre, president of the Houghton Agricultural Society.

Stan McIntyre, president of the Houghton Agricultural Society since 2004, has been working at the Houghton Fair since the early 1960s - about 55 of the fair's 165 years.

"It's been a long time," he laughed.

"I've enjoyed it, working with the kids. That's what it's all about and that's what it's for. But this doesn't happen all with one person."

He remembers growing up in the area, about two miles south of Fairground.

"The fairboard used to own all that land over there where the current (Houghton Public) school is," said McIntyre. "So I went to school at Houghton Centre, which is two miles from here. We would line up in the morning down at the public school, get our ribbons on and march up here after nine in the morning. There would be all kinds of activities - like horse pulls, high jumps, long jumps, racing, the whole shot. And it was an all-day thing for us kids. I was never very good at long jump, but I could usually run. And then at 4 o'clock we would march back home. That was our day, a long, full day.

Decades later, the fair still kicks off with a parade featuring fire trucks and school children walking from Houghton Public School to Fairground Park, followed by opening ceremonies, which included a performance from the Valley Heights Secondary School cheerleaders. Events began at 1 p.m., and as soon as one finished, the next started.

"I was talking to the principal this morning before the fair, and he said the kids were really getting excited this year. If you look in the hall," said McIntyre, who made the Fairground Hall sign in 1962, "they've got a big display of what they do. They enjoy it, and that's what it's for."

Thursday's events included a baby contest, decorated bicycles, clown contest, bubble gum blowing, pet displays, oldest woman and oldest man, nail driving, log sawing and tobacco tying. There were games for the children, and inflatables, as well as tractor and car displays. And fair food for everyone.

"Our oldest lady, she is 101 years old," McIntyre noted. "The tobacco tying, that's something that's gone out a few (decades) ago, so we keep it going here... as long as we can."

Houghton Fair, which has been on the last Thursday of September for a number of years, has changed dates several times over the past 165 years.

"In 1913, it was on a Tuesday. In 1878, I think it was on a Thursday or Friday. We always had it on the last Friday in September, but it depends on the school. A few years ago the school board made that Friday a PA Day, and without the kids we have no fair. So I changed it to Thursday and I didn't change it back. Keep it simple."

Not only have the fair traditions been maintained, many of the fair families keep coming back. McIntyre noted the Alton family has been a big part of the fair going back to John Alton, fairboard president in 1878. The current Altons (John and Dorothy) still contribute to the fair, bringing tables and picnic tables from Sand Hills.

"That's a lot of years, what would that be?" said McIntryre. "Great, great, great grandfather?" 

cabbott@postmedia.com