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Picton Fair highlights agriculture and fun for all ages

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
What began as a grass-roots agricultural fair in 1836, maintains that important element 184 years on.

Presented by the Prince Edward Agricultural Society, the Picton Fair came to town over the weekend, filling every corner of the Picton Fairgrounds.

For many, the Picton Fair, Ontario’s oldest agricultural fair, is an annual tradition softening the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. It attracts and welcomes everyone; families with kids, couples, seniors, friends and neighbours, where the general idea is to chill out and soak up the atmosphere.

The midway brings bright lights, noise, plenty of people and lots of excitement, enticing the very littlest ones to the biggest of kids, intent of having a good time. Some make a beeline for the fair; the merry-go-round and little train for the wee ones; the big wheel, and the scary rides reserved only for the brave and fearless. Hanging upside down, the screams and thrills of the rides endure, until it’s on to the next ride to be terrified, all over again.

Brian Flake with 15-year-old Jenny, one of several miniature horses he showed. Flake, who breeds miniature horses for his own use, said he comes to the Picton Fair every year.

But the Picton Fair hasn’t managed to stick around for close to two hundred years without doing something right. It has changed and evolved over its storied past, running continuously for all of its 184 years, except a couple during the worst of the Depression years.

The fall fair back in the day saw farmers bring their livestock and farm machinery, where horses and horse racing were also favourite events. Prince Edward County has a long agricultural and rural history and the fair has always reflected that. Even in changing times, the agricultural element of the fair is a significant and important part of the scheduling to the present day.

A good number of riders and horses brought varying skill levels to the outdoor arena, with a variety of timed events taking place through Saturday afternoon. They involved speed and agility and included barrel and flag races. Nearby, the mini horse show delighted onlookers.

Four-year-old Brooklyn Leavitt helps with preparing the family’s cattle for exhibition with a blowing tool for removing dust and dirt. The family farm, Gilcroft Farms in Demorestville showed Maine Anjou cattle.

Over in the agricultural barn and cattle arena, a number of farms were represented, bringing an impressive contingent of animals in the dairy and beef cattle shows. Most animals behaved themselves, one or two stubbornly voiced vocal displeasure at being walked around the arena with objectionable moo-ing.

It was an opportunity to experience the cattle, clean, brushed, washed, trimmed and groomed, where the magnificent beasts were put on display as judges observed and judged best of show in many different categories and age groups.

Calf, sheep and goat shows also took place with the 4-H Club.

The Crystal Palace hosted the annual baby show. And people’s biggest and smallest furry children showed off the longest tails, best costumes and more.

Inside the buildings, the curling club held a dog show and a baking auction raising funds for the hospital. This year’s bake-off produced a delicious and interesting selection cakes and pies, including cheesecakes, cream pies, apple pies, coconut pies, fruit pies and more. After the ribbons were awarded in each category, all the cakes were auctioned off to the highest bidder, and the delicious eats received many generous bids, many in the $100-$200 range.

“I am very excited to tell you that this is our 12th year for the bake-off, and in the 12 years, we have raised almost $13,000 for the hospital,” said Barbara McConnell, chair of the board for Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation.

The foundation raises money needed by the hospital to buy vital equipment for the nurses and doctors, said McConnell.

“We are also involved in raising money to build our new hospital in Prince Edward County,” she noted, adding that funds raised in the bake-off auction this year will go to the new hospital.

“Last year at this bake-off, we actually earned $1,270,” said McConnell. This year’s bake-off auction raised just under $3,000 for the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation Back the Build campaign.

The community centre held countless judged exhibits, ranging from photography and adult colouring book entries, art and crafts, embroidery, wood-working, and many home crafts.

There were preserves and pickles, produce and plants and more, with a large number of exhibits for flowers and plants, as well as grains and seeds.

The 4-H Judging Club Competition Activity was held in the Bluebird Building, and the Prince Edward Giant Pumpkin and Vegetable 4-H Club weight-off could be found in the community centre.

The Prince Edward County Quilters’ Guild displayed the completed quilt to be raffled at next year’s quilt show.

Deanna Gaudaur and Deelia Johnson of the Prince Edward County Quilters’ Guild sell raffle tickets for the 2020 quilt show raffle quilt.

“The raffle quilt is made by our members and is hand-quilted,” said Deelia Johnson, selling tickets with Deanna Gaudaur. “Half the proceeds from the raffle goes to education of our members, and half goes to local charities, like the foodbanks and snowsuits for kids.”

Johnson explained the quilt takes about one year to make, then another year is spent selling tickets. The quilt displayed at the fair will be raffled at the bi-annual quilt show to be held next summer.

Big farm equipment could be found outside together with countless booths and stalls, and of course, many favourite fast food offerings.

The fair offered axe throwing, face painting, dancing demonstrations, a chain saw carver, bingo, a lawn-tractor pull and a tractor pull. A car show, a demolition derby and wrestling completed the extensive line-up.

The Crystal Palace rocked all three days with featured performances by entertainers Crimson Cay, The Wilkinsons, Austin Young, The Reasons and Hank Williams Revisited, and a children’s music show.


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  1. Jack Smith says:

    Went on Sunday with my wife and enjoyed every moment. It’s the Picton Fair and I will always go no matter if it is smaller with displays as other years. It is just something I enjoy going to. 🙂

  2. Angela says:

    Good to hear that the cattle show is growing but the displays are shrinking every year. Could be time to consider asking local clubs/groups to enter displays and offer them
    space at no charge. It would look a lot better than so much empty space.

  3. SEW says:

    The cattle shows have never been better. The Dairy show had almost double the number of animals entered when compared to Belleville and the beef show has never been bigger with exhibitors coming from Lindsay and beyond. Something seems to be working.

  4. Angela says:

    Picton fair is slipping in comparison with other small fairs in the area. Year after year it is the same old same old. New attractions are needed and something needs to be done to attract more displays in the arena and Crystal Palace. The $8. admission charge is out of line with what is offered for the money. Time to make Picton fair great again.

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