A Tillsonburg tradition that goes back to 1854 - before it was actually Tillsonburg - opens tomorrow at the fairgrounds.
Thursday's evening's Ambassador, Junior Ambassador and Mini King and Queen judging and crowning takes place following opening ceremonies at 6 p.m. Everything else, including the Campbell Amusement rides and midway, homecraft exhibits, and Educational Animal Display and Pony Rides, opens at 4 p.m.
The four-day Tillsonburg Tri-County Fair continues Friday, August 19, again opening at 4 p.m., highlighted by the Big Creek Tractor Pullers at 7 p.m.
Saturday is typically one of the fair's busiest days. Gates open at 9 a.m. for 'Family Day at the Fair'. This year's baby show, the earliest Saturday event, begins at 10 a.m. in the Lions Den at the Tillsonburg Community Centre (rather than in the arena).
"Ilene (Chesterman) arranged it in the Lions Den for all the babies, parents and grandparents that come," said Fair president Rosemary Dean. "We did not rent the arena this year."
There will also be a pet show at 11 a.m., and ice cream eating contest tentatively set to start around 2 p.m.
Vendors that would be inside the arena are outside this year, said Dean, which should increase their exposure.
That also means all entertainment will be outdoors this year.
"We have a stage coming from London with a canopy," said Dean, looking forward to Saturday's live music entertainment from 11 a.m. to the headline performer, four-time CCMA award winner Shane Chisholm from Red Deer, Alberta, at 8:30 p.m.
There is limited bleacher seating, she said, so it's recommended to bring lawnchairs if you're settling in for an afternoon/evening of music.
"We have lots of grass where we're setting up."
The lineup includes Small Town Girls (the Van Maele sisters from Langton) at 11 a.m., Brooklyn Penelton at 12 p.m., Curtis Godick at 1, Karen Emeny at 2, Justine Chantale at 3, Long Story (Tillsonburg) at 4:30, and Coaching for Sara at 6 p.m.
AM&A (Amanda Underhill) opens for Chisholm at 7 p.m.
"Thanks to Harmony Road Recordings," said Dean, noting entertainment was arranged to replace the Battle of the Bands (which is expected to make a comeback next year).
"He did awesome... he had such a high demand to come, he had a wait list. He was overwhelmed by the response of people who wanted to come, which is great. We know it's something we could continue next year... make a day of entertainment."
Saturday's lineup also includes local 4H showmanship judging.
"For the kids we're going to do (free) games like Ring Toss, Bean Bag Throw, to give kids something to do in between rides and stuff."
A car show sets up Saturday, Middlesex Dog Agility Show happens at 2 p.m., and Paw Pups - Marshal, Chase and Sky - will make an appearance.
Sunday, August 21st, the final day of the fair, features a demolition derby at 2 p.m.
"It goes rain or shine, and the muddier the better usually," said Dean.
Seating has been expanded this year for what has been one of their biggest attractions. The town purchased three new sets of bleachers and the fairboard added a set, bringing them up to 10.
"We're hoping that should accommodate more," said Dean. "It should hold a capacity of another 300-400 people."
Sunday also features a rabbit demonstration and competition in the agriculture barn.
Dean encouraged people in the Tri-County area - Oxford, Norfolk and Elgin - to attend one of the longest running fairs in Ontario.
"We're in our 162nd year this year, and as I tell everyone, our fair is actually older than the Town of Tillsonburg (which was incorporated in 1870). We try to do the best we can every year to keep it going and move forward."
Admission is $5, and kids 5-and-under are free.
"Thursday we have toonie admission. Thursday only it's $2."
And if you come with non-perishable food items to donate to the food bank, they'll waive Thursday's admission.