There will be no fair this year in Tillsonburg.
The Tillsonburg Tri-County Agricultural Society has postponed its 166th Tri-County Fair to Aug. 19-21, 2022.
The only other time since 1854 there has not been an agricultural fair in the Tillsonburg district happened in 1944 and 1945 during the Second World War.
It takes a great deal of planning to put on the fair, and the uncertainty of Ontario’s COVID 19 case numbers and what stage of reopening the province would be in caused the Tillsonburg Fair Board express caution this summer.
Discussions typically begin in November for the following year’s fair. Tillsonburg Fair representatives attend the annual provincial fair convention in February (this year it was online), which helps guide them toward what entertainment might be available. Once they agree on what will be included, they look for sponsors. The prize book takes a few months to plan, make and find judges.
Aylmer, which always holds its fair a week before Tillsonburg’s, and Woodstock, which follows with its fair a week later, had both already cancelled.
“So we kind of followed suit,” said Rosemary Dean, president of the Tillsonburg Tri-County Agricultural Society. “Step 3 (of the Province’s reopening) was not here yet, so we didn’t know what that was going to look like and you can’t plan a fair in four to six weeks. Especially finding the community sponsorship, which we rely on a lot with the grants.
“This year, and moving forward, the challenge will be our (demolition) derby provider. Thrill Show Productions has retired so we’re not sure what that will look like moving forward. People are working on some ideas.”
Magical Midway will be the midway provider in 2022.
Similar to last year, there will still be an online fair presence from Aug. 20-22 this year. Follow the Tri-County Fair on Facebook (Tillsonburg Tri-County Fair or Tillsonburg Fair) for contests that will be running during what would have been this summer’s fair weekend.
Dean said they might be interested in hosting a ball hockey tournament Aug. 21 at the JL Scott McLean Outdoor Recreation Pad similar to 2019’s one-day tourney, depending on health unit and town approval.
“Just small scale, but letting people know we’re still here.”
Also, the Agricultural Society is hoping to be host to its annual Christmas Craft Show in November. Watch for details as they become available as the website (www.mytillsonburgfair.ca) is updated.
Not being able to run back-to-back fairs has not been financially crippling for the Tillsonburg Tri-County Fair – their members are all volunteers.
“We work well with the town,” said Dean. “Thankfully we have them – they have been really supportive to us.
“Our expenses, when there is no fair, are pretty minimal. We have still been renovating buildings – with our volunteers – because we have to be committed to volunteer hours to qualify for grants which start coming in the fall. We’ve updated the fairboard office, we just did that last Friday, and the cattle barn. We’re all volunteers and we work together as a team.
“If we didn’t have our great relationship with the town, that could look totally different. We work well with Chris Baird (Director of Recreation, Culture and Parks). With his guidance and his support getting stuff to Council for us, we’re getting his approval to go ahead and do stuff.”
New members for the fair board are always welcome, Dean stressed.
“We’re always looking for new volunteers, new ideas. We welcome any new members.”
Dean and the fair board are already looking forward to the 2022 fair during the town’s 150th anniversary.
“We’re hoping that 2022 will be bigger and better,” said Dean. “We’ve been set back, but we’re hoping that if 2022 goes the way we are hoping, we can have a nice venue with our midway, homecraft, vendors and stuff at the fairgrounds.”