by Festival Nomad Correspondent, Kevin Stuart
Late summer and early fall is when so many of us get back to the land with a vast array of fairs springing up in various communities throughout Ontario. The fairs, like the communities in which they’re found, come in various sizes and each has its own stories and traditions.
Nestled in a town of 4,000 people in eastern Prince Edward County, the Picton Fair is one of the oldest in Ontario is also one of the most intimate relative to other fairs.
The first was held in 1831 and, aside from a few years off during the Great Depression, it has run continuously ever since. Its focus is very local which also shows just what an active community Picton is, given the number of exhibitors and participants that make it happen.
As we crossed from the parking lot to the main track we saw the lawn tractors racing and kicking up their own kind of excitement. If only mowing the lawn was always this fun. This was the same track that later in the afternoon was where the demolition derby thrilled the crowds.
Not only was there speed, sound and smoke but a surprising amount of altitude when one of the cars looked as though it was going to jump the barrier. Of course, finding a place to sit was next to impossible if you didn’t arrive early.
One of the unique features at the Picton Fairgrounds is the Crystal Palace which was fashioned after the original one in England. Built in 1890 and refurbished in recent years, its high ceiling and large window space make it among the only building of its kind in North America.
It showcased several examples of fine arts and crafts in various formats. Another regular visitor to this spot is Papa’s Trains featuring a large collection of model trains all moving along a long track. He also delighted children with some interesting background on many of the trains displayed.
From there we decided it was time to see one of the key ingredients of any agricultural fair – the animals. Inside the first barn we found pigs, one of which was watching over several young piglets.
Children of all ages got up close to many more residents such as the goats, rabbits, ponies, and ducks. We also saw a sheep on a leash out in the open to accept many a stroke of its wool. The next building featured feathered friends of many types. This was where the prize winners could be seen and certainly heard.
Outside and nearby these buildings was the familiar colour of John Deere green as seen on the farm machinery. Yes, it’s hard for many to resist a little fantasizing by sitting in them and maybe dreaming a bit. For those who wished to take it a step further, several classic tractors were also on display and available for purchase.
From there we wandered over to the arena to see many displays and vendors booths. It also featured several examples of beautiful flowers and plants. It was also where we saw some of the prize winning fruits and vegetables. The largest pumpkin weighed in at 741 pounds. Sometimes those surroundings can make on work up an appetite but there were plenty of goodies to enjoy too, including Grandpa Ellis’ Taffy.
Naturally, with kids around, the midway is an almost mandatory stop. Fair favourites such as Surf’s Up, the Scrambler and mini roller coasters provided thrills for kids of all ages. While there were many eager riders, the line ups were not horrendous as is often the case at large fairs. That allowed for more ride time and, for parents, greater value for the ride tickets.
As the colours change, the drive to Picton is also very picturesque and another reason why you might wish to visit this historical fair if you find yourself in the nearby area during the second week of September. With very friendly people and admission prices that are easier on the wallet, the Picton Fair will provide you with an enjoyable day.