OTTAWA — Four days before last year’s opening of The Ottawa Valley Farm Show, its organizers made the agonizing decision to pull the plug. The day before, the National Hockey League suspended the rest of its season and the province announced the shut down of all schools for two weeks due to COVID-19. Two weeks turned into three months and the future of just about everything was up in the air. One-by-one all the rural fairs across the province were called off.
It’s now one year since the first lockdown and Ontario’s 214 agricultural fair boards are again wondering what they’re going to do. The Ottawa farm show would have been held this month but was cancelled in late fall. The Schomberg Agricultural Fair is the first fair of the year but the May event has already been cancelled.
“There’s a lot of people on pins and needles,” said Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies manager Vince Brennan, at Stirling, adding that he has not yet heard of any other fair cancelling for this year. “It’s going to depend on the next couple of months and how COVID evolves and the government policies to re-open.”
He added that fair boards have been advised to determine their “drop dead” date in which a final decision must be made to pull the plug and determine if that is one, two or three months from show time, he said. Typically, fair boards need one year of lead time to prepare for the next year, as board members have an enormous number of decisions to make and have to work out contracts with midways and entertainers, he said.
The Canadian Dairy Xpo trade fair in Stratford scheduled for April 7-8 is still on but will be an online event only.
The International Plowing Match and Rural Expo scheduled for October in Kawartha Lakes is run by a group of optimists. They are planning to go ahead with the event with some modifications in the camping area and tent city for COVID-19.