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The Loss of Fall Fairs Leaves a Huge Void in Rural Ontario

In the current year of cancellations and postponements, a major loss for all communities across rural Ontario is the annual fall fair.

Recently, CTV News Kitchener aired a report on the impacts throughout Waterloo Region and Wellington County. Organizers of the Aberfoyle Fall Fair indicated the postponing of their annual September event is both a disappointment for local residents and a significant financial loss for businesses.

In the community of Rockton, the annual World’s Fair normally attracts 60,000 people at Thanksgiving for dog shows, equestrian events and other agricultural-related activities. The title of this event suggests it is an extraordinary gathering and 2020 marks the first cancellation across a 168-year history.

The CTV report also noted the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions was asking the federal government for $74 million as support against losses incurred from cancelled events. The organization claims their members have been ineligible for most economic aid measures available for businesses and other organizations therefore they urgently require sector-specific funding. As an example of this predicament the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver has not secured a single dollar of municipal, provincial or federal support.

The Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies, representing over 200 organizers of events across the province, has reported that approximately 175 fall fairs have been cancelled this year due to COVID-19. A quick review of their website roster of member fairs indicates some communities will go virtual however no one will be proceeding with a normal event.

On August 20, 2020 the Ontario government announced they will provide $1 million for this year alone to agricultural and horticultural societies for the continuation of their operations and future events. As Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Ernie Hardeman noted these important organizations are part of the backbone of rural Ontario. The decision to cancel fairs was difficult but important to stop the spread of COVID-19.

For the residents of many communities and thousands of people with connections to fall fairs, this year will leave a huge void. However, rural Ontario does persevere and agricultural societies along with local businesses are simply looking ahead to next year.

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