by Festival Nomad "Scoop" Correspondent, Judi McWilliams
We knew we had arrived at the Markham Fair for two reasons. One, the traffic along the main highway had ground to a halt near the four corners. It took us about 20 minutes to get up to the front so that we could turn into the Fair's entrance. Secondly, as we waited patiently in line, we decided we would enjoy the scenery, which included magnificent barns, trees and fields of crops and flowers. Suddenly, we saw a man riding his bike, with a small child seated behind him. They were carrying a large yellow "blow-up" crayon that was precariously held across the handlebars. We were definitely at the Fair!
Many, well identified, volunteers guided us through the massive parking lot to our final parking spot. The midway with its huge Ferris Wheel was the first activity we came across. We bypassed the midway so we could capture the other activities happening in the Markham Fairgrounds. It was late afternoon, but we still had plenty of daylight left.
Markham is a fast growing, multicultural community, and the Markham Fair is one of Canada oldest country fairs. Since 1844 the fair has been providing the community with a showcase for talents and products, in a friendly competitive spirit. With over 750 volunteers working on more than 75 committees, Markham Fair is the largest community based volunteer organization in Canada. This great Fair attracts over 60,000 attendees, approximately 3,000 exhibitors who enter more than 12,000 items, which are judged and put on display during the fair!
We met up with the Markham Fair President, Lesley English, who was gracious enough to spend time showing us around the grounds. She explained to us that the Markham Fair continues to promote excellence through competition and through the Fair activities. She explains that this is what makes fairs unique in comparison to other events. Lesley goes on to share with us that their fair continues 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 supporting and providing facilities to encourage activities to enrich the community.
The Markham Fair is very well laid out and offers almost something for everyone! A great hand out map assisted to guide us around. Lesley’s passion and enthusiasm was very addictive and we soon found ourselves experiencing the Fair from a new perspective. At the Agri-Food tent, culinary demonstrations at the " Competition" were taking place so that the audience could experienced various cooking styles! They challenged the competitors to create an original local food recipe for the competition. The recipes required at least 3 local food ingredients and at least 3 food groups from Canada’s Food Guide. The cost had to be less than $20 to make and be mixed, cooked and served on stage in 20 minutes. Lesley told us that in years to come, they hope to incorporate more ethnic and cultural experiences, so that Markham's diverse community and visitors alike will have new food experiences.
The air was beginning to get crisp and it was time to start to make our way to the car. Along the way the midway was now lit up with bright lights. Music was playing by a live band and the sounds of enjoyment filled the air. Much to our surprise tons of people were just arriving to the Markham Fair. It was difficult to maneuver our way as we were now definitely travelling in the opposite direction of the crowds. The fair's demolition derby was about to start. The large grandstands were packed and the stands directly on the opposite side of the stadium were also packed. The roar of the crowds grew louder and louder.
We cut through some tents along the side of the grandstands. The night skies were dark and the Ferris Wheel that welcomed us at the beginning of our journey, shone brightly, lighting up a huge tree beside it. The vantage point from the sidelines was fantastic. It was here that we got a “great photo shot” of the fairgrounds! We were also able to get wonderful shots of the demolition derby! This is one Fair that is a must “return visit required”! We can hardly wait for more new exciting experiences!