Agriculture societies and their fairs have a long, storied history in Canada. First introduced by early settlers, the concept of the “Agriculture Fair” known then primarily as a “Cattle Shows” quickly gained popularity and flourished across North America. It was only a mere 300 years after Christopher Columbus inadvertently encountered the New World that the first agricultural society was founded, and subsequent fair was held.
In 1765 the first fair in North America was hosted in Windsor, Nova Scotia. A fair which is now the oldest continuously run agricultural fair in North America. Fairs of this era served as not only a meeting ground for distant neighbors and spread out communities but also as a welcome distraction from everyday hardships that come with developing a new country.
One such community member, Ernest M. Taylor describes in a letter written to his sister his thoughts on the events of the first Vermilion Fair in 1906 he states, “It was the greatest dissipation I have had in this country, which is not saying a great deal… Altogether the whole outing was very successful.” Fairs have continued to stand the test of time here in Canada. While other exhibitions and festivals came and wwent, fairs carried on, eventually becoming ingrained within the very culture of Canadian life.
In line with Canadian culture, agricultural societies are based on the hard work of volunteers and are not-for-profit organizations whose purpose is to support improvements in rural living and to provide means to educational opportunities in agriculture. In 1811 agricultural societies took the concept of the cattle show and changed things up. Adding an element of competition and prize money fairs would be forever changed and a new legacy was born.
Today that legacy continues with thousands of fairs across Canada and many more around the world. Fairs and agricultural societies continue to provide communities with fun and excitement, education, and all the best in competition of both agricultural and domestic products. Not to mention the food! Fairs bring us together year after year and if you have never made it to the Vermilion Fair, we look forward to seeing you soon.
Vermilion first Fair October 16, 1906. Photo submitted