CELEBRATING 125: The Agassiz Fall Fair a time-honoured tradition

Spectators waiting along Pioneer Avenue for the start of the Fall Fair Parade, circa 1950s.                                 (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)Spectators waiting along Pioneer Avenue for the start of the Fall Fair Parade, circa 1950s. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)
Agassiz United Church minister Lynn McGrath during the celebrity goat milking competition. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)Agassiz United Church minister Lynn McGrath during the celebrity goat milking competition. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Children push a buggy and carry a sign that reads “Bring the Family to the Fair” during the 1961 Agassiz Fall Fair parade. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)Children push a buggy and carry a sign that reads “Bring the Family to the Fair” during the 1961 Agassiz Fall Fair parade. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)
Agassiz’s new Corn King Martin Dinn rides with Agassiz Agricultural and Horticultural Association president Victoria Brookes in the Fall Fair parade. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)Agassiz’s new Corn King Martin Dinn rides with Agassiz Agricultural and Horticultural Association president Victoria Brookes in the Fall Fair parade. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Pat and Mike on horse drawn carriage on Pioneer Avenue during the Fall Fair Parade, circa 1980s. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)Pat and Mike on horse drawn carriage on Pioneer Avenue during the Fall Fair Parade, circa 1980s. (Agassiz-Harrison Historical Society)

When the Fall Fair arrives in Agassiz, it’s a little bit like magic.

In the week leading up to the Agassiz Fall Fair and Corn Festival, the empty fairgrounds slowly turn into a maze of rides and carnival fun. Inside the Agricultural Hall, clothing, baked goods, floral arrangements, quilts, vegetables and fruits, all made or grown by local residents, are set up and judged.

Then, on the afternoon of the second Friday after the September long weekend, the Fall Fair begins.

“There’s something magical about the fair,” Victoria Brookes, president of the Agassiz Agricultural and Horticultural Association said. “How you take that week setting up, you have the big day of the fair, and then the next day it’s gone, and you have to wait another year to see it again.”

It’s been this way for 116 years, when the Agassiz Fall Fair first started.

The fair first began back in 1901, and slowly expanded from its location at the Good Templar’s Hall to its current spot on the Agassiz Fairgrounds (purchased for that express purpose back in 1912).

Over the course of its history, the fair has only been cancelled three times: twice because of the Second World War, and once because of the 1948 flood.

In that year, the Agassiz Agricultural and Horticultural Association held a “picnic and field day” at the Dominion Experimental Farm (now the Agassiz Research Centre).

RELATED: HISTORY: The Fall Fair and the Research Centre

The picnic was put on instead of the Fall Fair and was billed as “a real get together with your neighbours.” Activities included milking competitions, guessing the weight of various animals and a livestock parade.

The following year was the start of a new tradition in Agassiz: the Corn Festival.

Originally started to celebrate the canning and sweet corn being grown in the region, the Corn Festival saw the introduction of the Corn King — an honour for local corn growers that continues to this day.

A tradition that no longer continues: in the week before the Corn Festival, members of the board of trade would be required to smoke from corn cob pipes only, and would be fined one dollar if they were caught smoking anything else.

For years, the Fall Fair and the Corn Festival existed separately, until falling volunteer numbers inspired the Corn Festival to join with the Fall Fair.

In the years since then, the Fall Fair and the Corn Festival have grown old together, although not without some changes.

“We always try to have something new, because we don’t want people to say ‘Oh I’ve been to the fair last year,’” Brookes said. “We want something old, and something new.”

Over the years, that “something new” has included the introduction of the Laughing Loggers show, as well the blueberry pie eating contest, which was so popular in 2018 that they ran out of pies for the adult competition.

RELATED: Agassiz Fall Fair celebrates 115 years of fair fun

But always, the most popular events have been the tried and true: the 4H competitions, the antique tractor pull, the corn husking competition and the crowning of the Corn King or Queen.

Through it all, the enduring enjoyment is from the many Agassiz residents who come out to enjoy the fair.

“It’s always the event of the year, get together at the fair,” association director Rita Bruneski said.

“It’s just seeing people’s smiling faces,” Brookes agreed. “I always just enjoy seeing people enjoy themselves at the fair.”

Want to read more about the history of the District of Kent for its 125th anniversary? Check out agassizharrisonobserver.com/tag/kent-125/.



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

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