Before Confederation, there was the Norfolk County Fair
Diane Finley, Haldimand-Norfolk MP since 2006, had the honour of officially opening the 177th Norfolk County Fair on Tuesday. With Finley is Brian Kenney, president of the Norfolk Agricultural Society. NAS was formed in 1840 and is responsible for the fair’s management. MONTE SONNENBERG / SIMCOE REFORMER
Canada’s 150th anniversary is a dominant theme at this year’s Norfolk County Fair.
It’s a big milestone for the country. But it also lends perspective to just how old and venerable the annual county fair in Norfolk has become.
The first fair was held in 1840 – the same year the Norfolk Agricultural Society was formed. That means the first fair was held 27 years before Sir John A. Macdonald and his compatriots gathered in Charlottetown, P.E.I., to make Canada a reality.
Looking back conjured memories of previous fairs during Tuesday’s opening ceremonies at the Simcoe Recreation Centre. George Pond, of Simcoe, has been a fixture at the fair for decades and served again as emcee.
“This year our nation has been celebrating our 150th birthday,” Pond said in his opening address. “Seems like it was just yesterday that we visited Expo 67 (in Montreal) and celebrated our 100th year.
“Yet here we are today 50 years later, growing generation after generation of proud Canadians. And here we are at the Norfolk County Fair 2017 displaying with pride the goods and achievements that we have produced and sharing in the pride of others as they display theirs.”
The honour of cutting the ribbon on the 177th fair went to Diane Finley, MP in Haldimand-Norfolk since 2006 and a former federal cabinet minister.
Finley recalled attending the fair for the first time as a youngster on her birthday. She thought at the time that the event was an elaborate party in her honour. While enumerating the fair’s many attractions, Finley noted that midway food has been a consistent favourite.
“By the way, fair food isn’t bad for you,” she said. “It’s a well-known fact that calories don’t count when you eat them standing up.”
Tuesday was also Young Canada Day. This is the day at the fair when area high school and elementary students test each other with road races, tug-of-war and cheerleading competitions.
As it happens, Young Canada Day isn’t so young anymore: The first was held 90 long years ago.
In his remarks, Norfolk Mayor Charlie Luke expressed amazement that he could hear area high school students rocking the Lloyd S. Culver Memorial Grandstand at 8 a.m. Tuesday all the way from Governor Simcoe Square.
Luke recalled how his father John, of Simcoe, proposed to the former Shirley Watson at the 111th Norfolk County Fair in 1951. She accepted and the pair are still an item.
“That was probably a good thing for me,” Luke said.
Vince Brennan, of Stirling, brought greetings to Norfolk on behalf of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies. Brennan noted there are 220 agricultural societies in Ontario. Of these, Norfolk’s is the fourth largest.
That scale is reflected in the diversity and extent of competitions and exhibits at the fair. These run the gamut from most all fruits and vegetables to preserves, textiles, livestock, floral arrangements, photography and the production of art across all age groups and mediums.
The fair board processed more than 14,000 entries in the run-up to this week’s fair. Total prize money this year will top out at more than $100,000.
“I’m overwhelmed by the amount of youth you have out there,” Brennan said. “Hats off to you and enjoy your 2017 fair.”
This edition of the Norfolk County Fair runs through Thanksgiving Monday. Weather permitting, it is expected to attract more than 100,000 visitors.