One of the fair's shows at night
|Genre||fall fair/Agricultural show|
|Dates||4 days (week before Thanksgiving: last week of September or first week of October)|
|Years active||175 years|
Markham Fair is one of Canada's oldest country fairs, an annual event established in 1844 and hosted by the Markham, Ontario and East York agricultural society. With over 700 volunteers working on more than 70 committees, Markham Fair is the largest community-based volunteer organization in Canada. The fair and fairgrounds are owned by the Markham and East York Agricultural Society.
The fair occurs annually on the weekend before Canadian Thanksgiving, and hosts upwards of 80,000 attendees. Approximately 3,000 exhibitors enter more than 12,000 items, which are judged and put on display during the fair. Promoting excellence through competition in this way makes fairs unique in comparison to other events.
Agricultural societies used to meet on a regular basis to discuss various concepts of agricultural improvement such as livestock development and increased grain yields. Often the society would collectively purchase a bull or seed grain, which would be made available to members only. The fall fair would then be an opportunity for the farmers to compete by showing off the fruits of their labour. Due to increased technology and rapid communication, agricultural societies no longer find it necessary to provide this service, but the Markham Fair continues to create the forum known as the fall fair, providing the community with a showcase for talents and products in a friendly competitive spirit.
As well as the competitive displays, the community is further brought together to enjoy various forms of entertainment such as horse pull, demolition derby, tractor pull, midway rides and displays of farm animals.
The fairgrounds are located in northern Markham at the northeast corner of McCowan Road and Elgin Mills Road and sits on 104 acres (42 ha) of former farm land (once farmed by Jonathan 'John' Williamson) and Stuart and Trevor Watson.
The site has several buildings used to house trade shows and other events. A 1/2-mile track and 4 wood stables are used to store animals. To the east of the fairgrounds is Little Rouge Creek.
The original fairground was located at the present day Markham Village Library at southeast corner of Markham Road and Highway 7 (farmland of Robert Goodfellow Armstrong and Wellington Hotel). The fair moved to the current site in 1977, as the original fairground area grew less agricultural.
The current library building was built to mimic the shape of the old Agricultural Hall that once stood at the site (along what is now Highway 7 on the south side from Washington Street to Jerman Street). A fire in 1916 burned down the new hall, ice rink and other buildings (barns). Only the rink was rebuilt (years later in 1963) on the site and currently part of the Markham Village Community Centre. The area where the track once sat are now homes with Reeves Park along Highway 48. ʱ
Many shows and events are showcased throughout the duration of the fair. In previous years these shows have included:
- Agri-food Tent Shows (cooking shows)
- Gymnastics demonstration
- Freestyle Moto-Cross (FMX) Bike Demonstration
- Demolition Derby
- Tractor Pull
- Sheep Shearing Demonstration
A number of local events use the fairgrounds outside of the fair days including home shows, trade shows and warehouse sales.
World's Finest Shows runs the midway located at the West Gate of the fairgrounds.
The earliest recorded fair held in Markham was in 1857 at the fairgrounds then located on the South East corner of the junction of Highways 7 (Wellington Street) and 48. Prior to that fairs was held in Unionville, Ontario in 1855. and also in Markham.
In 1865 Captain William Armstrong[disambiguation needed] granted 5 acres (2.0 ha) of his land for the fairgrounds to build several buildings (grandstand, track, stalls, ice rink, exhibition hall) including a single floor agricultural hall. A new two floor hall, ticket office and rink was planned in 1894 and in 1916 a fire destroyed those buildings and were later replaced with a larger Agricultural Hall (Crystal Palace) to house the fair. The massive brick 220 feet (67 m) by 74 feet (23 m) rink would serve as an early recreation centre.
In 1963 the fair buildings were demolished to make way for the Markham Village Cenotaph and Community Centre (including indoor ice rink). In 1977 the Fair relocated to its current site where the four-day fair is held annually on the weekend preceding Canadian Thanksgiving. The Markham Village Library was built in 1980-1981 (on land bought by the then Town of Markham in 1975) now occupies the site of the old fairgrounds and mimics the barrel vault design of the old Agricultural Hall.
Board of directors
The society is an Ontario corporation that owns and operates the fair and its properties. It is governed by a board of 24 directors, who are elected at each annual meeting for a three-year period, and six junior directors (between the ages of 18-26) who are elected annually for a one-year period. All directors are elected by members of the society who attend the annual meeting. From among the directors, the President (Chair) and two vice-presidents are elected following the annual meeting, along with a Treasurer, General Manager, and Secretary.
The mission of the society is to encourage an awareness of agriculture and to promote improvements in the quality of life of persons living in an agricultural community by:
- researching and developing programs to meet the needs of the community;
- holding annual agricultural exhibitions featuring competitions for which prizes may be awarded;
- promoting the conservation of natural resources;
- encouraging the beautification of the community; and by
- supporting and providing facilities to encourage activities to enrich the community
In addition, there are over 750 volunteers involved with the operations, which fill the board seats and form some 75 committees, which share administrative duties and the Fair operating procedures.
Other Canadian annual fairs
- Canadian National Exhibition - Toronto
- Calgary Stampede - Calgary
- Edmonton K-Days - Edmonton
- Pacific National Exhibition - Vancouver
- Central Canada Exhibition - Ottawa
- Canadian Lakehead Exhibition - Thunder Bay
- Red River Exhibition - Winnipeg
- Royal Agricultural Winter Fair - Toronto
- Royal Manitoba Winter Fair - Brandon, Manitoba
- Schomberg Fair - Schomberg, Ontario
- Sooke Fall Fair - Sooke, British Columbia
- Streetsville Bread and Honey Festival - Mississauga
- Western Fair - London, Ontario
- For a fuller history, Cf. Isabel Champion, ed., Markham: 1793-1900 (Markham, ON: Markham Historical Society, 1979), pp. 266-270; also Myra Chepack, "Markham Fair President 1910: James McCreight Armstrong[permanent dead link]," Markham Fair official website.
- "Markham Village Heritage Tour". City of Markham. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
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