When the 179th edition of the Norfolk County Fair was officially opened on Oct. 8 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a member of the Canadian Senate was among those holding a pair of scissors.
Sen. Robert Black of Fergus is an independent member of the Senate, and a member of the Senate’s agriculture and forestry committee.
“It’s an amazing fair you have here,” Black said. “I’m just in awe. The fair is older than the senate of Canada and older than the country itself.
“My favourite part is seeing the happy, smiling faces. And that’s what I’m seeing out there.”
Debbie Morrison, president of the Norfolk Agricultural Society, spoke of the 17,000 entries at this year’s fair and the powerful economic impact it has on the county.
Morrison said the fair would generate $10 million in economic activity before it ended on Thanksgiving Monday. Volunteer groups that help manage parking in the south end of the 50-acre fairgrounds would share in proceeds worth $25,000.
Morrison recalled how fairs like Norfolk’s began in the mid-19th century as showcases for the latest in animal husbandry and agricultural techniques. The educational component remains a constant, Morrison said, especially for up-and-coming generations of farmers.
“My wish is – in another 179 years – someone stands in my place and speaks of the 358 years of unbroken agricultural heritage,” she said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Local MPP Toby Barrett spoke of the needs the Norfolk County Fair serves in this area. The 40,000 commercial farms in Ontario, Barrett said, provide 800,000 jobs annually while generating $40 billion a year in economic activity.
The fair drew about 17,000 entries in a diverse number of competitions. They ranged from livestock and horse riding to artwork and quilting.
George Pond of Simcoe, emcee for the fair’s opening ceremony for nearly 30 years, said the logistical effort required to bring together the fair together is formidable.
“If we were to bring all our winners here, we would be here till Saturday night presenting them with their trophies,” Pond said.