By Connor Lynch
MAXVILLE — While you may not be able to hit your local fair this year, some of the larger and later Ontario ag events were still planning to go ahead.
One of the earliest fairs of the year, the Maxville Fair, which was to run from June 26-28, has canceled. So have the July fairs at Almonte, Beachburg and Lansdowne. The August fairs that have cancelled now include Lombardy, Navan and Merrickville. The October Norwood Fair has also turned off the lights.
Merrickville Agricultural Society secretary Jessica Reid told Farmers Forum that the fair had already cancelled a “major fundraising event” in April and that the majority of fair funding comes from local businesses “that struggle through the winter” and have continued to struggle.
The Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions said that as many as one-tenth of Ontario’s fairs may shut down permanently because of the COVID-19 outbreak and half were uncertain about their futures.
The Lombardy Fair, scheduled for Aug. 7-8, pulled the plug based on social responsibility and fiscal reality, fair president Ron MacMillan said. The only other time the fair cancelled was in 1943 during the Second World War.
Encouraging people to get together is a no-no and the small, local businesses that sponsor the fair area were hurting already, he said. He also wondered how comfortable people are going to be about getting together in large crowds by August anyway. And even if they do come out, are they going to want to spend money if they’re already in a tough financial spot?
The trifecta of good weather, good attendance and generous sponsorship is what makes the fair successful, he said. Knock any of those out and the whole thing is in trouble. The board has done what it can to mitigate expenses, including turning the heat off in some facilities, asking their internet provider for a freebie, and doing some of the maintenance work on the grounds themselves. MacMillan said that a local groundskeeping contractor offered to help out himself, with his own lawnmower, to help keep the place in shape.
Rental cancellations for weddings and other events has been a hard knock but they still hope that the annual barn dance, held in September will go ahead. “Without the rental of our facilities . . . we’re hanging in,” he said.
Despite the current limits on the size of gatherings to five people, some larger ag events were still planning to go ahead. The 103rd International Plowing Match, scheduled for Oct. 14-17 at Lindsay, wasn’t planning on cancelling or even postponing the event by late April. If it were to be cancelled, it’d only be the third time: It was cancelled from 1943-1945 during the Second World War and in 1918 because of the outbreak of Spanish Flu.
Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show, scheduled for Sept. 15-17 at Woodstock, hadn’t announced any plans. “With our event being months away, it is too soon to make any significant decisions,” said a notice on its website.
Don’t count on going to rural fairs: One in 10 will never open again, fair association says
By Connor Lynch