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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Everyone's gone country at fall fairs

   One-Tank Trip published Oct. 1-2, 2011

   (c) By Jim Fox

   City slickers can find out what goes on down on the farm at two of the longest-running fall fairs.
   Everyone’s gone country as we’re talking about farm animals, horse shows and rodeo events, the venerable baby contests, demolition derbies, country crooners and big veggies.
   Monster gourds and more will be at the Rockton World’s Fair and Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show.
Huge veggies, such as this pumpkin, compete for the largest title at Rockton World’s Fair. (Photo by John Overmeyer)
   World-class fall fair
   In 1878, poet Andrew Kernighan said the fair in Rockton, between Cambridge and Dundas, was really a world’s fair because “all of the world comes to it.”
   Newspapers then picked up the “world” tag for the Beverly Agricultural Society Fair as it was then known and the rest is history.
The colourful night lights of the midway at Rockton World’s Fair. (Photo by John Overmeyer)
   Marking its 159th year on Thanksgiving weekend from Oct. 7 to 10, the fair will attract 100,000 people.
   Marie Cowlin of the marketing committee said her usual Thanksgiving dinner is traditional fair fare: “back bacon on a bun with fries and an elephant ear topped off with hot apple cider.”
   As one of Ontario’s top 10 fairs, it hasn’t strayed from its agricultural roots, with gigantic pumpkins, entertainers, smashed up demo-cross racing jalopies, a midway, horse competitions and more.
A traffic jam during the smash-up Demo Cross race at the Rockton World’s Fair. (Photo by John Overmeyer)
   New is a “heavy-horse” show of Clydesdales, Percherons and Belgians with mare teams in four and six hitches. There are also “light-horse” shows with Roadsters, Hackneys, Shetlands and fine harness ponies.
   “The AgAlive tent is one of my favourite places, packed full of various farm animals and related displays including a children's corn pit and colouring contest,” Cowlin said.
Judy McKnight and son Evan came to Rockton World’s Fair last year with their huge pumpkins. (Photo by John Overmeyer)
   Prizes will be awarded in such areas as scrapbooking, growing vegetables, painting, singing, photography, sewing, baking and even decorating cupcakes.
   There will also be a spelling bee, pie-eating contest, dog, poultry, pigeon and rabbit shows, goat, sheep and cattle competitions, celebrity cake decorating, talent show with “Rockton’s own idol search,” and Grand Karaoke Championship.
A six-hitch “heavy-horse” competition is a new feature at the upcoming Rockton World’s Fair. (Photo by John Overmeyer)
   From its inception in 1852 on a “glorious Indian summer day,” it now involves hundreds of volunteers, 1,200 exhibitors and prize money of $80,000.
   Hours are Oct. 7, 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Oct. 8, 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Oct. 9, 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; and Oct. 10, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. www.rocktonworldsfair.com; 1-866- 985-2002
Rider Laura Passant shows her best moves during a competition at the Rockton World’s Fair. (Photo by John Overmeyer)
   Fun and food in Simcoe
   Rockton might be considered a youngster by the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show that’s been around for 171 years and runs next Tuesday (Oct. 4) to Oct. 10.
   “We’re older than Canada, but we’re not old-fashioned,” said Karen Matthews, general manager.
   Agriculture continues to be the “heart and soul of the fair” that has been officially opened by many notables including prime ministers.
   This year is “no exception,” as the task will be handled by Norfolk’s food ambassadors, the “Two Fairly Fat Guys (Brian Reichheld and Dan Barker),” who encourage all guys to get cooking.
   Bob Blumer of Food Network’s Glutton for Punishment and celebrity chef and barbecue guru Ted Reader will cook up a storm along with the new fun food sensation, deep-fried Kool-Aid.
Bob Blumer of Food Network’s Glutton for Punishment will appear at the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show.
   There are also Belgium waffles, perogies on a stick,  bloomin’ onions, fruity snow cones, Tiki Dave’s smoothies, sweet potato fries and the 65th year for Bryan’s Dixie Dogs (Bill Bryan and his family from London have been at the fair since 1946).
   Along with the numerous animal events, tractor pulls and demolition derbies, there’s the “thrill of competition” with six-and eight-horse hitch teams.
   Entertainment includes Canadian music icons Burton Cummings and country’s Terri Clark and George Canyon.
Canadian music icon Burton Cummings will perform at this year’s Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show.
   Lucas Wilson of Port Dover will try to break a Guinness World Record for escaping from a straitjacket, suspended upside down while wrapped in chains.
   Admission is $10 (Tuesday to Thursday); $12 (Friday to Monday); $4 and $6, respectively, for ages six to 13 (except free on opening day); $6 for seniors (60 plus) on Oct. 5; free, kids to age five; $23, family day, Oct. 9 (two adults and children to age 13); $40, seven-day pass; $5, parking. Admission discounts online. www.norfolkcountyfair.com; (519) 426-7280

   Happening now
   - Across Huron County today (Oct. 1) are free events for the Celebration of First Nations.
   The highlight is Sunday (Oct. 2) with traditional dancers and drumming from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Clan Gregor Square in Bayfield.
   The public can join a drumming circle and friendship dance and hear former Ontario lieutenant-governor James Bartleman (at 1 p.m.) reading from his novel As Long as the River Flows. www.heritageandculture.on.ca

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Jim Fox can be reached at onetanktrips@hotmail.com

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