Rain not a problem for Norfolk Fair

Four-year-old Megan DeBoer of Selkirk shows her calf Pepsi at the 2018 Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show . Brian Thompson / Brantford Expositor

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The year-round cultivation of revenue streams helps the Norfolk Agricultural Society weather the storm when October turns out to be rainy.

Diversification came in handy last year as the agricultural society endured one of the wettest fairs in recent memory.

Back in the day when the Norfolk County Fair dominated all else, a wet fair was bad financial news. Today, it merely marks the difference between a good year and a great year.

“We had a wet fair and that affected attendance,” George Araujo, general manager of the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show, said Monday. “But we had great days too. The last day of the fair we had record attendance and record amounts of money spent.”

Several decades ago the Norfolk County Fairgrounds was a sleepy place for much of the year.

But with 50 acres of prime land in the middle of Simcoe and nearly a dozen large, spacious buildings to rent, the fairgrounds today is busy most every day of the week.

Araujo describes the Junior Farmers Building as “the buck-and-doe capital of Norfolk.” Numerous sports teams rent The Aud while Eat-and-Drink Norfolk, the Norfolk Wildlife Festival and Adventure Show, the Simcoe Farmers Market, trade and business shows, reunions and social events provide reliable revenue streams throughout the year.

“Fifty or 60 years ago we could shut everything down and wait for the fair,” Araujo said. “We can’t do that anymore.

“We have a lot of agricultural people who know the weather can turn on you. Hopefully, this was that one year and we can get back to sunny skies in 2019.”

The Norfolk Agricultural Society executive will have a new look heading into 2019. At its annual general meeting in Simcoe Saturday, a new president and new executive was installed.

The new president is Debbie Morrison. Morrison replaces Brian Kenney, who remains on the executive in the role of past president. Steven Balcomb was selected first vice president while Brad Nunn was elected second vice president.

“It is an honour and a privilege to be the incoming president,” Morrison said in a news release. “The fair is steeped in 178 years of rich history, and to be part of that is humbling. I give special thanks to Dianne Persall, Sharon Petheram and Sharon Judd. These women were the trailblazers in becoming the first three female presidents of the Norfolk County Agricultural Society.”

Seven directors were elected at Saturday’s meeting to three-year terms.

Three-year directors include Carolynne Campbell, Patricia Douel, Mark Jacobs, Percy McNabb, Sharon Petheram, Craig Smith and Dan Taylor.

Keith Harvey was elected to the board for a two-year term while Molly McDowall was elected for a one-year term.

The Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions took the occasion of Saturday’s meeting to hand out several awards.

Receiving Distinguished Service Awards for contributing to the success of the Norfolk County Fair for 10 years or more were Lyle and Marsha McLaren of Old Fashioned Fudge Inc., the family of the late John and Hazel Race, the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, and Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm of La Salette.

Receiving an Order of Merit for five or more years of outstanding service to the NCF were Dave Richardson and Perry Willson.

Ginger Stanley received the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies’ Agricultural Service Diploma for her outstanding record of volunteerism at the Norfolk County Fair. As well, the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies’ Accomplishment Award was presented to Ron Barker.

Fair officials also took time Saturday to recognize posthumously several Norfolk County Fair stalwarts who passed away over the past year.

The Honour Roll includes R.B. Kent, W.A. Bowyer, J. James Miller, A.E. Culver, Horace Kellum, Paul E. Angle, Ruth Gundry, Lois Buckborough, Doug Witham, Cecil Crane and Walter Petheram.

The Norfolk County Fair is the fourth largest fair in Ontario. It draws over 100,000 visitors over seven days in October.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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