Ontario Agricultural Fairs 2023 News – Port Hope Fall Fair Fair

~ Call for Volunteers September 14th to 17th, 2023

Port Hope, ON –  ‘Help us in celebrating 190 years of agriculture’: Port Hope Fair issues call for volunteer help.

~ Post-pandemic, volunteer numbers dwindling, but it takes 100-200 volunteers to power four-day fair ~

Did you know it takes 100 to 200 volunteers to power the Port Hope Fair?

This will be our 190th fair and they’ve all been run by volunteers — so we’ve done this for 190 years,” explained Diana Barrett, who serves on the board of directors and is among the mighty volunteer group working on the 2023 fair, which returns from Sept. 14 to 17 at the Port Hope Agricultural Park.

Hosted by the Port Hope and District Agricultural Society, the beloved fair — established in 1831 — is one of Ontario’s longest-running fairs. And it’s so much more than just a fair.

Of course, it boasts all the staples folks often nowadays associate with fairs: the midway, games and tasty treats. But it’s also steeped in tradition, a celebration of agriculture and farmers, the harvest season. As an agricultural fair, it’s educational — in a fun way.

And it celebrates local faces, from area farmers and artisans to the kids who exhibit their garden treasures, arts and crafts and more.

But to do all this, the Port Hope Fair needs help. And like so many other Northumberland organizations, help post-pandemic continues to be a struggle.

A lot of our volunteers were older, and they enjoyed their time off,” said Barrett. “They were able to put their feet up during COVID, and said, ‘Hey, this is kind of nice.

They’ve found other hobbies and other things to do, and unfortunately, they haven’t come back. And I think we have a few generations of people (who) haven’t done any volunteering, and (so) we just don’t (have the numbers we once did).”

Pre-COVID, there were struggles around volunteer recruitment locally — a shift underway in recent years noted by several area organizations, service clubs and the like. However, COVID, like in many other instances, appears to have added to the struggles.

In years past, recalled Barrett, it was just something families always did — mom and dad went ahead of time to help set things up, and the kids had to tag along. It was part of growing up here.

Volunteers help keep costs down.

If we had to pay everybody to run the Port Hope Fair, it would become an incredibly expensive fair, and there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t be able to afford to attend, is what would happen,” acknowledged Barrett.

We need people. We’ve been working all year — pretty much from last year’s (fair) until now — to get this fair ready to go. We need people to help us set up the fair … (the week before, helping to set up tables, tents, fencing, parking areas, signage and so on).

Volunteers are also needed to help with teardown afterwards.

During the fair, we need people on our gates — we have about 90 positions that we have to fill at all the different entrance points over the weekend. We need people who can put on wristbands, people who can do admissions at the gates. We really need people in our beer garden (who) have their Smart Serve (designation) as well.”

Volunteers are also needed to help watch over the many exhibits, to help with parking, in the “ag (agricultural) discovery area,” with the animal areas and more.

To volunteer, visit the volunteer section via porthopefair.com or call 905-396-3247. Anyone who volunteers for the day also gets admission for the day, as well as snacks, drinks and so forth, noted Barrett.

While a core volunteer group of about 15 or so works throughout the year, Barrett said it takes between 100 and 200 people to pull it all off over the four days.

Residents are also being encouraged to participate through fair exhibits and the like and get the kids involved. To do so, one has to become a member — but it’s only $7 and membership covers admission all weekend, explained Barrett, noting that exhibiting something could be as simple as entering some baked goods, flowers or vegetables grown in the garden. There are also craft categories, and more.

The full fair booklet — which has all the details, competition guidelines, classes and more info — is accessible online. At press deadline, vendor spaces were also still available.

Our family always looked so forward to going to the fair because the kids would pick things out of the garden to enter and they would do all the crafts listed in the book,” said Barrett. “One would see if they could outdo the other, which is always humorous, and vie for who gets the most junior points because there’s an extra prize for that.

“They just couldn’t wait to get to the fair. I remember my daughter’s violin lesson was Friday afternoon and she couldn’t wait to get out of that lesson in Port Hope and get over to see how her entries had made out and how many red ribbons she was going to have.”

In Connie Martinell’s president message, Martinell, too, called on all to come out and “help us in celebrating 190 years of agriculture.”

Martinell also encouraged folks to showcase their “creative and artistic talents” by becoming an exhibitor. There is art, photography, baking, canning and preserving, fruits and vegetables, plants and flowers and several other categories to enter, noted Martinell.

Directors, associate directors and volunteers have been planning and lining up events and activities for all ages that promote our agricultural roots, while being informative, educational and fun,” said Martinell. “Their hard work, dedication and time spent are not unnoticed and will be reflected throughout the fair.”

The 2023 fair will see the return of longtime favourites and feature exciting new additions.

The full schedule is accessible online, but the demolition derby, midway, vintage tractor parade, petting farm, truck-and-tractor pull, live entertainment and “delicious local foods” will return.

There will be horse, cattle, goat shows and the like — and lots of new additions in the ag discovery area, including more hands-on activities, shining a light on all different aspects of agriculture, which the kids should really enjoy, said Barrett.

Kids will also have their school displays, talent and pet shows, and a pedal tractor pull, to name some of the fun. Dozens of displays and exhibitors will showcase all sorts of local goods.

Artists and others will demonstrate their crafts with live shows. Some new additions include everything from a “mock poultry show,” to lawn tractor races and more.

People have to realize, too, how good volunteering can make them feel,” said Barrett, adding that giving back to the community helps people connect with others and with feeling like they have purpose. “It’s not just good for the community — it’s good for you.”

According to the society, the earliest editions of the fairs were similar to farmers’ markets, where one could sell produce rather than just exhibit it. These fairs were often spread out over several days.

Farmers in Hope Township were interested in forming an agricultural society, with records showing the first steps for establishing the society were taken back in November 1830 with a subscription list circulated. A meeting was then held at what is now Dale Corners in December 1830. The society became a reality in January 1831.

By Sarah Hyatt Northumberland News

Visit our website at www.porthopefair.com

Check out Ontario Visited’s article about their visit to the Port Hope Fall Fair Fair at fairs.ontariovisited.ca/port-hope-fall-fair

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