The school-run fair was at risk of shutting down after 166 years
By Diego Flammini
Members of an Ontario community have stepped up to keep an annual tradition alive for its 167th year.
The Sydenham Fall Fair was at risk of closing after the 2019 event because of administrative issues and a need for more volunteers.
The Bluewater District School Board, for example, wouldn’t allow animals on the East Ridge Community School property, where the fair had been held for the last two years, citing safety and potential site damage.
And the core group of volunteers were being stretched too thin to put on a quality event, said Keith Reid, president of the Sydenham Agricultural Society.
“Volunteers were split up between two spots and were just getting depleted,” he told Farms.com. “It seemed like there were fewer and fewer willing to put (the fair) on.”
But after a September 2019 article in the Owen Sound Sun Times spoke of the fair’s potential closure, the community stepped up to ensure the event’s future.
“When the community realized the fair might not continue, we saw an outpouring of support to ensure it did,” he said.
The fair’s planning committee meets on the first Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the school.
The meetings have been well attended with about 20 volunteers showing up to each one, Reid said.
The support is a sign of how important the fair is to the community. It’s also an important time for the ag industry to have fairs like the Sydenham one, said Reid, who runs a diversified operation near Meaford, Ont.
“Some of the volunteers now were students when the fair was held at Sydenham School (from 1967 to 2008), so you can see how much of a mark it left on them,” he said. “And if there’s ever been a time that we’ve needed a fall fair, it’s now. People are getting farther away from the farm and the number of farmers is getting smaller. Now is the time to encourage agriculture outreach and what better way than having a fair where kids can touch a pig, smell a cow and immerse themselves in farming.”
The 2020 Sydenham Fall Fair is set to be held on Sept. 24.