Napanee Fair still relevant 188 years later

Flipping through back issues of the Napanee Beaver for the weekly Looking Back section, there’s one thing that remains constant-August means it’s time for the Napanee Fair.

While other major news stories dominate the headlines, bringing about with them major changes to the area, be they good or bad, the general tone around the Napanee Fair remains the same. And that’s not a bad thing.

Few festivals or events last 10 years, let alone 100. Usually interest will wane in the following years as guests seek out a new thrill instead of the same old.
Sure there’s been some additions and subtractions to the fair over the last 188 years, but at its core it remains the same family friendly event that was founded long before Canada became a sovereign nation. Members of the rural community come together to celebrate the farm. Horses are still admired for their brute strength. Riders are still able to dazzle the crowd with their ability to complete a barrel race. Members of 4-H are still celebrated for their hard work, raising and showing livestock. Community members have an opportunity to showcase their skills, whether it be in photography, baking or raising chickens, with everything else in between.

Over the years the fair has been able to walk that fine line between adapting to what people like while still maintaining its original mandate.

Agriculture, despite its vital role in Canada’s economy, is often shuttled off as an afterthought in today’s world. That’s why events that celebrate the sector are important to not only preserve that history, but ensure that in endures into the future because no matter what progress is made, people will still need to eat.

Napanee is fortunate there’s enough interest, both from volunteers and patrons, to keep the fair vibrant decade after decade as it approaches its bicentennial. Several smaller rural communities haven’t been able to sustain their fairs, signalling the end for generations worth of family traditions.

Walking around this year’s Napanee Fair and the familiar site of kids being social, away from screens and enjoying the moment is a welcome sight. Farmers have a chance to talk shop or just catch up with old friends. The members of 4-H see a year’s worth of preparation reach its pinnacle when they earn a ribbon for their project. Those that place well in Napanee will have a chance to represent L&A County on the grand stage, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto.

Hopefully the enthusiasm for the fair will continue to shine bright for generations to come. Fair Board members are no doubt already looking ahead to 2020 while the dust from last weekend’s fair has barely settled. Often overlooked, their behind the scenes work all year round is what makes an event as large as the fair run smoothly for four days every August. Without them, there would be no fair and for that reason we should be grateful for their dedication.

-Adam Prudhomme

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