Port Hope Fall Fair


by Gary McWilliams (aka Festival Nomad)

A Sense of Community…
Leaves turning from summer green to different shades of red, orange and yellow. Crisp mornings crisper with frost on car windows. Framers harvesting their crops. Fruit and vegetable stands full of inviting fresh produce. Wisps of smoke floating gently from neighbourhood chimneys.

The smell of fresh baked pies flowing from open windows. Rows of glass jars on windowsills waiting to be filled with preserves. Fall is in the air.

With these thoughts Judi and I left Cobourg and traveled the 10 km west to Port Hope. It was time for the Port Hope Fall Fair. This year the fair celebrated it’s 176th anniversary. It is one of Canada’s longest running fall fairs. To me, fall fairs create a “sense of community”. Neighbours from far and wide gather in one location to celebrate their harvest. They compete with each other to show who is the best cook, baker, gardener, sewer, etc., all in good fun. We paid our admission of $5.00 each and started our exploration of this year’s fair.

First we walked to the Fall Fair Centre. Just outside the building a stage had been set up. The group entertaining was none other that “Nothin Serious” who we had heard play the day before at the Oshawa Celtic Festival. We listen for a few moments and then entered the Centre.

There were rows of fresh produce and flowers on the south side of the building. They had all been judged and the winners and runners up were sporting a variety of colourful ribbons. At the back of the building several ladies were demonstrating the art of hooking and spinning.

The hookers called themselves (you’ve got it) the “Happy Hookers”. On the north side of the centre, several community groups had set up information booths. Back outside the building, we walked to the community centre. This building housed the crafts and baking.

As with the produce and flowers, these had been judged and ribbons were attached to the winners and runners up. We wandered throughout the building admiring the skill of the crafters nd bakers. Just out side the community centre the Port Hope Rotary Club was selling hamburgers, hot dogs and sausages.

The smell was too much so I purchased a hamburger with lots of fried onions. We had spent a lot of time in the buildings, so it was now time to investigate the outside activities…

The Walk About…
The middle part of the Port Hope Fall Fair grounds were full of Midway rides and games. Outside of the CNE this was the largest Midway we have seen so far in our festival visits.

The sounds of the Midway filled the crisp fall air. Rides and games of skill and chance were everywhere. We snaked through the crowds and found ourselves at a set of bleachers.

The night before the bleachers had been overflowing with Demolition Derby enthusiasts. Today they were only partly full with people anticipating a future event.

The lady on the PA system announced that the Tractor Parade was going to be delayed, but that the Heavy Horse Pull was going to happen earlier than scheduled. Soon four teams on beautiful horses appeared to the right of the bleachers.

The pulling contest was about to begin. Each team came to centre stage, turned around, hitched to the weight and then allowed to pull. Each team pulled with authority and enthusiasm. Once a round was successfully completed more weight was added to the pulling sled. These magnificent horses were a picture of brut strength. The contest continued until one team was declared the winner. From the Heavy Horse Pulling we walked over to the Antique Car Show.

There were row upon row of antique and classic car all shined to perfection. As we were leaving the area, car owners had formed a circle around an MC who was announcing the winners of the show. We left the main Fair grounds to investigate the livestock and animal exhibits…

Dogs, Chickens, Cows, Sheep and More…
The livestock and animals are located in a sports park area just south of the main Fair grounds. The northeast corner of the park was fenced for the agile dog show. It was in progress when we arrived.

Like many of the other similar shows we have seen, the dogs were spectacular. We stayed and watched the dogs perform for some time. We then headed south towards a set of tents. In doing so we had to watch our step! We had to cross over the pony ride trail. The first tent we came to, housed an array of domestic animals including ponies, chickens, ducks, lambs and geese.

Then there was a tent that contained chickens, all types of chickens and lots of them. They were there to be judged for their perfection. The tent also included different types of rabbits. Other tents showed up farm life, both in words and static displays. Across from the last tent was the sheep herding demonstration. The demonstration was being run by Sylvia and Larry Forster.

 Fortunately there was a demonstration already in progress. We watched how the Border collie and Sheppard worked together to control the movement of the herd. Even though I have seen this type of demonstration many times before, I still marvel at dog’s skill and patience.

These dogs are tireless. The MC of the demonstration told us they the dogs actually had to be ordered to rest or they might work themselves to death. Just to the north of the Border collie demonstration, on the west side of the park, was the goat tent.

Judges had just evaluated several goats and class winners were being announced. The final exhibit to be visited was the cow tent. Handles were busy cleaning and brush one of the cows.

Others were laying down contently chew hay. It was a great day at the Port Hope Fall Fair, well worth the visit.

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