Organizers to soon decide on fate of this year's fall fairs

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Local fair-goers are going to have to wait a bit longer to find out if they can get their fall fix.

Citing COVID-19 concerns and restrictions on mass gatherings that are remaining in place for the foreseeable future, organizers of the Canadian National Exhibition, an 18-day Toronto extravaganza, and the Western Fair in London, have announced the cancellation of this year’s events, something that hasn’t happened for either of them since the Second World War.

But local fair boards are still holding on to hope they will be able to treat visitors to carnival rides and games, grandstand entertainment and a chance to get a peek at the region’s largest pumpkin and best tasting preserves.

“We are continuing to work on planning for the fair while collecting data and closely following the situation,” said George Araujo, general manager of the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show in Simcoe.

This is to be a milestone celebration for the Norfolk fair, which will be marking its 180th anniversary, Oct. 6 to 12.

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“Several factors, including operational regulations, patron safety, as well as safety of our volunteers, partners and staff remain our highest priority,” said Araujo, adding that no deadline has been set to decide if this year’s fair will go ahead.

“We are also monitoring available volunteer and exhibitor participation, as well as fair-goer confidence as key components to consider.”

The fourth largest fair in Ontario, Norfolk typically draws more than 120,000 visitors.

Meanwhile, there’s a ticker on the Paris Agricultural Society website counting down the days until the opening of the Paris Fair, scheduled for Sept. 3 to 7.

But manager Cheryl Muir said fair board directors will be making a decision on June 15 about whether they will cancel this year’s fair, the 162nd. Earlier this year, the board announced the cancellation of its Canada Day celebrations.

“We have been gathering information and watching, like everyone else, the recommendations of the local health unit and the province,” said Muir, noting that directors also will weigh the opinions of “people in town” in making their decision.

Organizers of the Burford Fall Fair are also waiting a couple more weeks to decide the fate of this year’s edition, set for Oct. 9 to 12. They are also poised to celebrate a significant anniversary. It has been 160 years since the South Brant Agricultural Society was formed and held its first fair in Cathcart. The fair moved to Burford in 1893.

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“We’ve kind of put everything on hold for planning,” said Gayle Barker, whose family has for years been involved in organizing the four-day event. “We’re just in a wait-and-see position.

“I have a feeling, though, that fairs and festivals are going to be the last thing allowed.”

If the Burford event is cancelled, Barker said she’s in favour of pushing the 160th anniversary celebration to next year and making it “bigger and better.”

The 153rd Six Nations Fall Fair, held in Ohsweken, is set for Sept. 11 to 13. Organizers will decide on June 22 if it will go ahead, said executive member Michelle Bomberry.

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