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  • Craig Baird

The 1917 Vermilion Fair

The year 1917 was a tough one for Canada. It was the year of the most divisive election in Canadian history, which was fueled by the Conscription Crisis. It was also the year that the Halifax Explosion occurred, the largest accidental non-nuclear explosion in human history to this very day.

Amid this, as the country dealt with the increased deaths in the trenches in France, people in Vermilion were able to get their minds off the war by attending a fair that was considered to be one of the best events in the province.

On Sept. 14, over 2,500 people, well over the population of Vermilion, came out for the fair at the exhibition grounds. It was considered to be the largest attendance for such a fair in a rural area in the province’s history to that point.

The day was helped by the perfect weather and before long the ground were crowded with people looking to get their minds off the war. The most popular centres of attraction in the fair were the school exhibits, the vegetable displays and the subject studies. There were also exhibits from the government, and the Vermilion school of agriculture.

One prominent agriculturalist who had attended fairs around Alberta said that it was the best fair he had seen outside of Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary and Lethbridge.

A stock parade was held at the end of the parade and it covered one kilometre of track and was greatly enjoyed by everyone who watched it. William Steel of Vermilion won a special prize for the best herd pure bred bull. Steel was also the president of the Vermilion Agricultural Society and under his guidance, the fair was a massive success.

For those who attended, the fair was the perfect way to forget the problems of the day, or the fact that they had loved ones fighting overseas, or the looming election that was dividing the country. For a single day, it was just about sunny weather, being around friends, and enjoying the celebration of the agriculture of the Vermilion area.

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