By Dan Rankin
Catherine Wallis can’t remember ever missing a Kirkton Fall Fair. She was even attending before she can remember.
“I was in the baby show and won ‘biggest eyes’,” she said with a laugh.
As outgoing president of the Kirkton Agricultural Society, Wallis has done a lot more than simply attend the fair. On Tuesday evening, she and Ag Society Secretary Treasurer April Barker gave a presentation to Perth South Council on this year’s 148th Kirkton Fall Fair – which ran from Sept. 9-11 – and discussed plans for its future.
This year’s fair had over 1,000 paid attendees plus hundreds of children who don’t pay admission, Wallis said. “On the Sunday of the fair weekend, that’s when we have our demolition derby and we added the car show this year, with weather cooperating, our attendance almost doubled this year over 2015,” she added.
The Kirkton Ag Society’s fair board meets six times a year to plan the annual fall fair, which is traditionally held on the first full weekend in September after Labour Day, Wallis said. This year’s fair theme was “Sew It, Grow It, Show It,” and featured both the longstanding traditional fair events (including the Parade, the Kirkton 4-H Dairy Club Achievement Day, the Baby Show and the Demolition Derby) and some newer events that Wallis said “becoming favourites” such as the talent show, the Optimist Fun Zone, and “Paint the Derby Car.”
“Kids get to paint the car on Saturday, then we have a driver drive it at the derby on Sunday, so they get to cheer for their car,” she said. “We added it last year and it was a big hit for the kids.”
This year’s fair also featured the first ever Kirkton Highland Games and a classic car show which featured 45 vehicles, she told Council. As well, there were around 150 exhibitors that entered their crafts, baking, vegetables, and photography.
“We’ve had great support from the community businesses and individuals,” she said. “This year we had over $11,500 in sponsorship. That was welcomed with open arms as we add more events.”
According to Wallis, a need for more volunteers is the biggest challenge for the fair organizers. “We have the ideas to move forward,” she said. “It’s having the bodies to implement everything. We couldn’t do all this without our volunteers and board members. It takes countless hours to set up, clean up, run all the activities and events.”
Looking ahead to the fair’s 150th anniversary and beyond, Wallis said they hope to continue to grow the event by programming events not only for families but also for an older demographic who might appreciate attractions such as live musical entertainment. “As of right now, events wrap up about 4:00 pm Saturday and then don’t get rolling again until 1:00 pm on Sunday,” she said. “There’s a bit of a gap there. We could fill that time with more events. We’re looking to make it an entire weekend of fun by adding some more events.”
In recognition of the fact that every year insurance and operating costs increase, Wallis asked Perth South on behalf of the Kirkton Ag Society “to consider increasing the annual financial support that is provided to the Kirkton Agricultural Society for the Kirkton Fall Fair” from the $250 it has provided in recent years. A recommendation for the size of increase was not given, however Wallis did describe the Ag Society’s fair sponsorship recognition program. Perth South’s $250 sponsorship makes them “Friends of the Fair,” the lowest recognition level for sponsorships up to $299. Next up is the “Hobby Farm” level for sponsors as high as $499, followed by “Homestead” level (up to $999), and finally “Century Farm” ($1000+).
Council moved to receive the presentation and defer their decision until they were in budget deliberations.
“I’ve been attending the Kirkton Fair for a lot of years and I was really pleased to see an improvement last year,” said Mayor Bob Wilhelm. “You could certainly see the crowds up. Congratulations to everyone involved.”