It may be hard to imagine looking through the poplars and the golden rod, but 150 years ago a quiet corner of Oil Springs hosted the first agricultural fair in the area.
After many years and many changes, the Petrolia Enniskillen Agricultural Society is marking that milestone during this year’s Fall Fair, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Oil Springs resident Charles Fairbank says it is believed the fair in 1863 was likely at the corner of Kelly Road and Victoria Street. Fairbank says there is only a verbal history of the event and no one is really sure what fairgoers would have seen. “Much of the time, the roads were appalling so it had to be sometime in the summer when the roads would have to dry up,” says Fairbank.
Fair board President, Judy Krall, says over the years there were many ups and downs.
By 1876, the fair had moved into Petrolia and 1888, the society bought 3 ½ acres of land and made $5.25.
In 1896, the agricultural society talked to other societies in Brigden and Wyoming to see if they could hold an amalgamated event but that didn’t happen. All three fall fairs are still going strong.
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Krall says there were a number of years when the fair had to be cancelled. In 1933, the agricultural society cancelled the fair indefinitely after the federal government asked to use the fair grounds and buildings “for the army and the housing of Japanese people” during the Second World War, according to the fair board’s history.
By 1947, the fair was back on and by 1954, the fair board had moved the event to the first weekend after Labour Day, the time frame it is still held today.
Krall says this year’s fair’s opening will reflect on that history with Fairbank helping to open the event.
And she hopes the community will help celebrate the 150 years by bringing canned goods to donate to the Petrolia Food Bank. Krall hopes to collect 150 tonnes during the weekend.