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Agassiz fair board makes case for financial support

The Agassiz Fall Fair and Corn Festival is the highlight of the event calendar in Agassiz, with attendance rates that temporarily double the population of about 5,000.

It's the weekend when families and graduating classes hold their reunions, taking in the fair festivities annually. It's a major event in any 4H member's calendar, and one of the only fairs in the Fraser Valley to host a parade, a barbecue, a logging show and a large midway.

And in the last 13 years, it's been voted as the best fair no less than eight times.

But that still wasn't enough to secure a grant from the District of Kent in this year's round of grants in aid. The fair is run by the Agassiz Agricultural and Horticultural Association, who are asking for $1,560 from the District. It's the same amount they've asked for, and received, for the past few years.

When they didn't make the cut, they decided to approach council as a delegation on Monday night to plead their case again. Association president Victoria Brookes outlined the fair's long community history, while mentioning the many community organizations the association supports throughout the year. Many groups are able to use the association's Agricultural Hall free of rent, including the Boy Scouts group, high school graduation dinner and choir festival.

Brookes said the organization would have to look at ways to cut back costs without the grant, and said that one way will be to remove the Centennial Trophy from the winners' trophies this year. That prize has been given out in honour of the District of Kent since the 1970s.

"We don't make a profit, nor are we subsidized," Brookes said.

Ken Schwaerzle, a fair director and past councilor in the District of Kent, said the fair draws in people from outside the area, and has become synonymous with Agassiz.

"This two day event is not probably, but is, the biggest and best event held in the district of Kent every year," he said.

Most people outside of Agassiz say ... the city of Agassiz sure has a good fair, which I guess some of us know that better than others."

Council made a motion to reconsider the decision and move the issue back to the budget process, which is not yet complete.

However, the annual grant in aid is not the only support the District gives to the fair.

The Observer has learned that the District of Kent annually provides support to the Agassiz Agriculture and Horticulture Association in costs paid for facility rentals, grant-in-aid, and/or in-kind services through the payment of utilities (water and sewer) and public works labour during the Fall Fair.

In 2008 this support totaled $29,548.28. In 2009, this support totaled $28,415.79; and in 2010 this support totaled $28,486.84.

The numbers for 2011 have not yet been finalized.

Brookes said the association runs a tight financial ship, and are simply hoping to continue the partnership they've enjoyed with the District for so many years.

"We're not trying to get more, we're just trying to get the same," she said. The fair operates with the assistance of more than 200 volunteers.

This year's Agassiz Fall Fair runs September 14 and 15 and has a theme: "You would have to be nuts to miss it."

Brookes passed out small bags of Agassiz-grown hazelnuts to each of the council members and staff at the meeting during the presentation.

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