Attendance still going strong at fall fair

It’s been said attendance at agricultural fairs has been decreasing in recent years, but that certainly wasn’t the case at the Rainy River Valley Agricultural Society’s annual fall fair in Emo last week.
In fact, RRVAS president Emily Watson noted she received a comment from one of the midway operators that he’s impressed the attendance at this fair goes up every year while others in the region are going down.
She added the pre-sales for midway tickets were up this year, too.
“I think the whole thing went wonderfully well,” Watson enthused Monday. “I was really pleased.”
She suggested the weather as one possible reason for increased attendance.
“I couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather,” she remarked. “It didn’t pour rain and it wasn’t too excessively hot. At times, it was overcast a bit, but that didn’t slow anyone down.”
In addition to increased attendance, Watson said there were more exhibitors than last year displaying their items in the Exhibition Hall.
“We tried something different with the distribution from our books and we saw our membership go up and a lot more people exhibiting,” she indicated, adding the books were left at municipal offices throughout the area.
“If you want to exhibit, then you buy a membership,” she explained. “In the past, people have paid their membership and then received the book. So we’ve done it just a little bit differently.
“They can look in the book and then decide [if] they want to exhibit before they become a member.”
But Watson noted she’d still like to see more schools in the district participate in exhibiting.
“We have a number of categories for the school-aged children and only three schools brought items to display,” she noted.
“I’m going to try and make sure the information gets out to the different schools right away. And just talk to them and hopefully we’ll have some more participation.
“There’s lots of room in there for exhibiting and the kids are anxious to go in and see their stuff,” she added. “And we also have open categories, as well, for kids to pick and choose from where it doesn’t have to be done at school.”
Watson said the board already has begun to discuss more changes for next year’s fair.
“I know it sounds crazy, but it’s got to start right away,” she stressed, noting they are planning to do some work on the Exhibition Hall this fall.
“We’d like to take out the floor that’s in there and all of the display cases and put in a cement floor and removable, or at least moveable, display cases,” she indicated.
“In the winter time, we’ll be able to rent out that space to Tompkins [Hardware] to store boats.”
Other buildings, such as several of the barns on the fairgrounds, already are rented out during the winter months.
“That will be one of the big changes,” Watson said.
Another change that might take place next year could be the relocation of the beer garden.
“We had talked to the Legion this year about moving the beer garden—not eliminating it, just moving it,” Watson noted. “But it got so late in the season that we just decided to leave it there for this year, but we are looking at moving it.”
She said the Legion does a lot of good community work with the money it raises, so fair organizers don’t want to kick them out. It’s just a huge space that’s not being utilized very well.
It’s been suggested the beer garden move to the front corner of the grandstand by the stock car association’s booth.
“We’d have to put fencing up at the end of the grandstand so kids couldn’t jump onto the roof of the stock car building,” she noted. “But the stock car building would move right up against the end of the grandstand and then from the other end to the outside wall, that’s where the beer garden would be.”
Watson also said the Legion needs a new building, saying the one they have now is not in very good shape. In fact, one of the walls fell down just prior to the fair starting.
“They got a bunch of people there and they got it put back up, secured and everything,” she noted. “But I think that’s a sign from someone with greater power—we better do something here.”
She explained the Legion agreed it could use a much smaller space, as well.
“And it would allow us to spread the midway out and allow the midway to bring more rides,” Watson reasoned. “They brought the ‘Wipe-out’ this year, but in order for them to do that, they had to leave some others behind.
“They have a lot more rides that they can bring and, of course, the kids like the variety—they’re always asking for more rides.”
Watson attributed the success of this year’s fair to the volunteers and board of directors.
“I just am really thankful for my board of directors,” she stressed. “We work so well together and we help each other out. None of this would have happened without them.”
< *c>Horse show, parade
Meanwhile, some other changes for next year’s fair already have been considered regarding the new outdoor horse arena.
“Because of its location now and because we’re moving the midway closer to it, the noise from the midway interfered with the announcing,” Watson explained.
“So we’re going to have to work on making some improvements to our sound system for the new arena.”
Another suggestion made to improve the announcing is to the move the announcer’s booth closer to the stands.
“But all in all, it [the horse show] was well-attended and I think we did a good job keeping it moving this year,” said RRVAS director Angela Halvorsen. “It ended at an earlier time, which was one of the complaints last year.”
She noted the newly-added “Parade of Breeds,” which was held at the end of the regular parade on Saturday, also went well.
“I heard a lot of positive comments about the changes we made to the parade this year, where we had part of the judging of the draft horses done right there in front of the grandstand as part of the parade and then our parade of breeds,” Watson said, adding it helps people to know a bit of the background of the different breeds of horses.
“That was very well done—they did a lot of research about that,” she remarked.
Halvorsen indicated they are taking all the comments and suggestions into consideration and hope to make next year’s horse events even better.
“We’re talking about putting some shelter roofs over the bleachers so there’s not so much blazing sun or rain or whatever it might be,” she said.
And they’ve thought about adding some different classes because they have more of the gated horses here now.
The 2006 high point trophy winners for the Miniature, Light, and Draft Horse Show were as follows:
  •George Meyers Memorial Trophy (Champion & Reserve Champion Registered Draft Mare)—Norbert Bragg (“Bonnie” & “Kate”)
  •Sunset Country Ford Trophy (Four-Horse Hitch Draft)—Leon Vercrussey & Shane Brown
  •Cecil & Lillian Kellar Memorial Trophy (Best Dressed, Groomed & Mannered Team)—Norbert Bragg (“Bonnie” & “Kate”)
  •Miniature Horse (Sponsored by Emo Dental Centre)—Bev Hasiuk Strachan (“Taz”)
  •Open Gymkhana (Sponsored by West End Motors & Aurora Wind Feeds)—Iris Gerhard (“Blue”)
  •Novice Gymkhana (Sponsored by Pizza Hut)—Stephanie Kozlowski (“Pal”)
  •Youth 13 & Under Performance (Sponsored by Nor-West Animal Clinic)—Paige McNally (“Dudley”)
  •Youth 14–18 Performance (Sponsored by West End Motors & Aurora Wind Feeds)—Mackenzie Caul (“Dudley”)
  •Senior 19 & Over Performance (Sponsored by DeGagne Equipment)—Brande Bliss (“G.R.”)
  •Novice Performance (Sponsored by Rainy River Federation of Agriculture)—Myrna Cooper (“Gambler”)
< *c>Tractor pull
The tractors balance and pull were held Saturday afternoon for the second year in a row and although the slow tractor race wasn’t done, Watson said the event generated a lot of interest.
“They are actually antique tractors that have been rebuilt,” she explained. “Each person that owns them has put a lot of work into them. They really want to show them off.”
She added they had some different competitors this year and likely will continue to hold the event in years to come.
“It was a good time to have it after the parade because we already had a lot of people in the grandstands,” she remarked.
The results from the competition were:
•Class ‘A’—1. Don McCulloch 2. Larry Jack 3. Matt Loughrey
•Class ‘B’—1. Rod Carter 2. Delbert Redford
•Class ‘C’—1. Gary Barker 2. Alf Redford 3. Christopher Leek
Watson conceded the threshing demonstration that took place Saturday morning wasn’t very well advertised because it was a last-minute addition.
“I think we want to try and do that again next year, but make sure that people know it’s going to happen in advance,” she remarked.