The 124th Salmon Arm Fair was a well-attended weekend of exhibits, entertainment, education and fun.
Though he did not yet have numbers from the weekend, fair manager Jim McEwan said attendance for the Sept. 8-10 event appeared to be on par with, if not slightly greater than, what was seen in 2022, which wound up being a record year with close to 10,000 people showing up on the Saturday alone.
“I think weather definitely contributed to that,” said McEwan of this year’s Fair, hosted by the Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association (SASLAA). “West Coast Amusements said their attendance was up over last year. The food concessions reported a very good year. I think all in all, everyone was very pleased, from the numbers standpoint.”
Word from attendees has also been largely positive.
“I think people like the size of it, I think they like the fact that it’s a community family fair,” said McEwan. “It’s not overly commercialized, there’s lots of exhibits for literally everybody in the family, lots of attractions…
“We changed up our late night entertainment slightly and that went over really well. People really enjoyed the Young’uns and the Dirt Road Kings. So that was a nice win, when you see people up on the dance floor and asking for an encore from the band.”
Another new Fair addition, the Canine Stars, also received a lot of love. The Knights of Valour, back for their second year, continued to be a popular draw, though McEwan has heard their brand of entertainment – full-contact jousting – wasn’t for everyone.
“I’ve had a few people who were a little concerned about the Knights of Valour,” said McEwan. “Anybody who has watched full-contact jousting will probably see why there might be some comments that are not positive… because it is alarming when you watch two people go at each other on horses and one falls down. It can hurt.”
For himself, McEwan said one of the brightest stars of this year’s Fair was Project Grow and the youth garden contest, an initiative that got youth planting and tending their own gardens.
“That’s not so much my doing as much as it is Melanie (Bennett) from the Shuswap Food Action Society and Jazmyn (McMyn) from Grow & Change Horticulture Services,” said McEwan. “Those two just worked so hard and put in so many hours working with the kids on their gardens. I was just thrilled at the end of it how successful it was and how much people learned, whether it was the youth or parents or grandparents, and it was such a positive.”
McEwan said a review is done after each Fair to go over what worked well and what didn’t, adding there’s always things that can be tweaked. One thing to be discussed is how the Fair “can be more aware and educational” when it comes to climate change.
“Agriculture… the industry, gets so affected by the climate,” said McEwan. “We saw that this year with our drought conditions. What are we doing as an industry to address that…? So, we’ll be looking at that as an area to expand on… Maybe having home gardens is one of those items. It’s not going to be the be-all end-all, but it will be one more item people can do in their own yards that would help out the climate change issues.”
As far as work behind the scenes goes, McEwan said the Fair’s biggest challenge “is and always will be set up and volunteers.”
“Most people who see what happens on the fairgrounds don’t realize how much work goes into setting everything up, preparing everything – and in some cases it’s last minute… by the morning we’re still finishing off some of the infrastructure to make it so that the general public can walk in and be safe and have fun,” said McEwan. “That’s still a challenge and it’s still something that we as an organization will be working on.”
McEwan added no community event could run without volunteers, and attracting/retaining volunteers are ongoing challenges for events organizers in general.
“I think if anything it’s probably a good idea for all the stakeholders that are involved with running events to get together and say, ‘OK, what can we do as a city?’” said McEwan, stressing the issue is one “we should be addressing and working on today, because if we wait until tomorrow we’ll probably lose some events out there.”
Regarding events lost, McEwan said SASLAA and the Salmon Arm Fair are considering bringing back the Canada Day Children’s Festival. He said the festival would run during the morning and daytime, with CountryFest taking place in the late afternoon and evening.
“We can use the north fairgrounds and host an event that we all can be proud of, one for the kids and in the evening one for the adults,” said McEwan, who wanted to get the word out in the community to see if there’s interest.
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