No fairs, but still some fall fun

This year's edition of the Petrolia Enniskillen Fall Fair has been cancelled because of the uncertainty around COVID-19 restrictions.

Normally on the Labour Day weekend, Judy Krall and most of her family would be busy at Greenwood Park preparing for the first fall fair of the season.
But when this weekend rolls around, there will be no Petrolia Enniskillen Fall Fair. And it is taking a bit of getting used to.
“It’s definitely a different experience,” says Krall, who has been the agricultural society’s president and is currently a district director for the Ontario Agricultural Society in Lambton-Middlesex and Elgin. “It’s kind of hard to come to grips will it.”
In April, when it became clear the restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic were not lifting anytime soon, agricultural fairs across the province started looking at their events and cancelling, knowing provincial restrictions on the number of people in one place would not allow a fair to run.
Some fairs, decided to run events in place of the fair. Krall says Petrolia considered it, but the timing was bad.
“We discussed putting on a virtual event or some virtual contests but we really thought with the kids going back to school (later in the year) it wouldn’t be good timing,” she says.
Members of the Brooke-Alvinston and Watford Fall Fair board decided to run a number of events on Oct. 3 – the Saturday the Alvinston fair grounds would normally be full of people.
“It is an important event in our community, especially with its long history; we didn’t want to just write it off,” says Dan Cumming, president of the board which has hosted a fair for the last 143 years.
“We sat down and thought about what are some of the things we could do to keep our fair relevant and on people’s mind,” he says. “Things that were important to the kids or stood out, we decided to do.”
The Brooke-Alvinston and Watford fair group will host a drive by rib dinner that night, a pumpkin growing contest for boys and girls, a virtual pet show and scarecrow contest. There will also be fireworks – a hold over from a missed Canada Day celebration.
While Cumming says they wanted to provide some fun for the community, the fundraising aspect becomes important during a year when the fair will not run. Cumming says like other societies, they still have expenses to pay and that can make money tight. He’s thankful the Alvinston Rodeo event has helped bring in much needed revenue to the ag society.
“It still hurts missing this year, but we just don’t think it will spell disaster.”
Krall says some other fairs are having a much harder time. Brigden Fair has a budget of $500,000 a year, she says, and many buildings to repair and keep in top shape even if the fair doesn’t go on.
“They also do a lot of fundraising with community dinners which they have not been able to do.”
Krall says a $5,000 grant will help most societies, but larger fairs may have financial problems into 2021.