Free admission pays off for Fall Fair
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Sep 25, 2013  |  Vote 0    0

Free admission pays off for Fall Fair

Stratford Gazette

Chet Greason

This year, the Stratford Fall Fair tried offering free admission and, according to Stratford and District Agricultural Society president Martin Ritsma, it paid off.

“Saturday, compared to any other Saturday, was probably the best we’ve seen since I’ve been involved,” he said, adding that he’s been working with the Agricultural Society for 13 years.

The high attendance comes despite the nasty weather that rained down over the weekend. Ritsma surmised that free admission had a lot to do with people’s decision to come out anyway.

“They’d say, ‘It’s free! Let’s go. If it’s decent, we’ll stay a couple of hours; if not, we’ll go home again.”

He estimated the prospect of paying $8 just to get in the door might have dissuaded most people from risking the wetness.

The rain really didn’t have much of an effect on the fair, either. With the exception of the tug-of-war tournament, which was cancelled due to the high likelihood the event would damage the soaked fairgrounds, the Fall Fair proceeded as planned. Other regular fair events, such as the demolition derby and the horse show, were opted out of from the outset to avoid direct competition with the International Plowing Match.

“We don’t have gates to compare, but when we look at individuals buying ride tickets, there is a significant change (compared to past years)” said Ritsma, who noted attendance in the Farm to You exhibit, which featured pens of farm animals, from milk cows to piglets to baby goats, was “amazing.”

“It was shoulder-to-shoulder going through those displays at one point,” he said. “I’d say we were very successful in bringing the rural to the urban.”

4H show a family affair

The Farm to You display, held in the Fairgrounds Agriplex, also hosted the Perth County 4H organization’s annual cattle show.

Judge John Werry, from Oshawa, said calves are judged according to the true type model, which is the ideal structure of a cow based on balance and proportions.

“Showmanship takes two,” he explained. “If your calf acts up, that’s all part of it.”

The competitions this weekend were just one rung in the ladder of Ontario calf showing. The animals showcased in Stratford were the winners of each 4H district’s individual achievement day competitions. Presenters and calves who did well at the Stratford Fall Fair will be selected by committee to attend the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.

Kirkton 4H leader Sandy Brock said  there are fewer young people getting involved in cattle showing, and attributes this to the agricultural reality of bigger modern farms with less children on them.

She noted that many young 4H members are rural, but may not actually live on a dairy farm.

“They’re brought up in it,” she said. “It’s something the family can do together.”

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