With the short, reddish-brown hair brushed as straight as possible, an electric clipper is used to tidy up the neck; meanwhile, the person brandishing the clipper tells the subject to remain still, stands back to check the work, then holds her breath while she applies a fog of hairspray. Have you ever seen a cow being groomed for the show ring? What about a 1,000-pound giant pumpkin or prize-winning potatoes? If you are interested in food, a trip to the fair is just the thing.
Food, fun and family
A fair is a gathering, a periodic and competitive exhibit of agricultural products crossed with a marketplace and carnival. Going to the fair is a great way to get a sense of where food comes from and to connect with local food and its producers.
Why a day at the fair?
A fair offers fun things for everyone:
• livestock and horticultural competitions
• home baking and preserves
• animal petting zoos
• arts and crafts
• a trip down memory lane for those with agricultural roots
• serious stuff aside, try the cotton candy and amusements
Across the country
Fairs organized at a municipal, county or district level by agricultural societies occur Canada-wide. Locals enter competitions in such categories as horticulture, preserves, baking, knitting and quilt making. All this is usually accompanied by games and amusements -- and don't forget the candy apples!
For example, the Brome Fair in southern Quebec has taken place since 1856. While the village has a population of just 250, it grows to over 40,000 during the fair! Those interested in seeing red cranberries ready for harvest can attend the Bala Cranberry Festival in Bala, Ont., to visit cranberry bogs, learn how cranberries are grown and harvested, then visit a market with local foods and crafts.
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In addition to local fairs, there are large regional fairs. Here is a sampling of what you might encounter:
Watch cooking demonstrations showcasing local foods at Agrifest, in Canning, N.S. Learn about double-yolked eggs, hear about gardening techniques, then take plot tours of vegetables, berries, vineyards and field crops.
Be greeted by a cacophony of colourfully plumed poultry at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. See vendors with unique food products including smoked arctic char, cranberry fudge and bison burgers, then stop in at producer association kiosks for samples and recipes. Touch unrefined wool or see how honey is produced at the International Plowing Match, which features plowing competitions, antique tractors and farm wares, animal exhibits and a marketplace.
While the Calgary Stampede is renowned for chuck wagon races, did you know that there is a blacksmith competition? Visit the on-site museum to trace the growth of the grain industry and discover how grain farming impacts our lives, or attend many other events including pigeon races, a miniature horse show, antique tractor pulls, a beef cattle showcase and a rodeo. Learn how milk gets from a cow to the store at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver. See beef cattle, horses, rabbits, dogs, dairy cows, goats, llamas, pigs and sheep in competition; visit a petting farm, or learn how to grow vegetables.
Fairs are held year round, although most small fairs and exhibitions take place from early summer into the fall. Locate a fair by consulting one of the following fair associations:
• Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions
• Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies
• Associations des expositions agricoles du QuÃ©bec
• B.C. Association of Agricultural Fairs and Exhibitions
• The Exhibitions Association of Nova Scotia
• The Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies
• Harvest Ontario
• Saskatchewan Association of Agricultural Societies and Exhibitions
If you like food, give the fair a fair shake!
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