The Salmon Arm Fair celebrates its 119th anniversary this year.
When the fair began in 1897, it was a one-day affair. That year the exhibits consisted of apples, flowers, vegetables, butter and grain. Outside there were all kinds of athletic contests and horse races.
The fair was so popular that within a couple of years there were many more exhibits that included dairy, produce, more varieties of fruit, fancy work, and livestock. All were vying for the coveted blue ribbon. The prize money might only be a few dollars, but it brings its own prestige.
“You get bragging rights for being top of the class. The blue ribbon is the best,” says Salmon Arm fair chair Star MacGregor.
Over the next number of years different venues were used, even J.L. Jackson School.
From 1946 the fair was held annually. The Women’s Institute served dinner and tea. If anyone wanted a snack in-between, they could stroll over the local service club tables for ice cream, hot dogs, and coffee. It wasn’t until the mid 1950s when carnival rides and commercial booths became part of the festivities.
By the 1960s the fair became a three-day event. It was such an important part of city’s calendar that Friday afternoon was declared an official holiday and stores closed so that employees could attend the fair.
This is no longer the case. In fact, in order to boost Friday daytime attendance this year, there is financial incentive. If anyone comes before 5 p.m. on Friday the cost is only $5.
For many long-time residents of the area, like McGregor, the fair is just a part of her life.
“I took my first goat there in 1979 and I’ve only missed one fair since then.”
One of the great things about the fair, she says, is that people who aren’t in agriculture can get a first hand look at farm animals.
“I enjoy it when I’m with my goats there in the morning or night and people seeing what it’s like to milk a goat. In the pail is warm milk. It’s fun to make that connection.”
Phil Wright, president of the Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association, says the fair is the one time a year where people get together and have a chance to show off a little.
“It’s a popular showcase of local talent. People take pride in their hobbies and arts and crafts and like to showcase. It is the social fabric that has held the local communities together.”
Over the years the divisions have grown and changed. Some have been dropped entirely because picking the blue-ribbon winner could get a little tricky, like the most beautiful baby contest that was inaugurated in the early 1900s.
“We haven’t done that one for a while,” laughs Wright. “If we did, the judge would have to be from out of town. The last one was from out of town and left almost immediately after.”
$5.00 until 5 p.m.
Salmon Arm Fair admission is $5 until 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9.
Fairgoers arriving before 5 p.m. their gate admission for $5 the whole day!
Fall Fair Parade
8 a.m. – Marshaling begins
9:15 a.m. – All entries in position
10:00 a.m. – Judging complete
10:45 a.m. – Parade start