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Rockton World's Fair

Gary

by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams

Rockton World's Fair Re-visited
The last time we visited the Rockton World’s Fair, we traveled through a horrific thunder storm! What a difference a few years makes! This time we arrived in bright sunlight. The temperature hovering at a balmy 22°C. The Rockton World’s Fair was as we remembered it. Lots of enthusiastic festival visitors, plenty of rides and all the wonderful exhibits and activities you would expect to find at a county fair. This year our first stop was at the grandstand. Here we watched mini Chuckwagon races. The dust flying as they charged around the racecourse. From the Grandstand we passed the children's entertainment centre where Craig Douglas, comic juggler extraordinaire, was entertaining the crowd of adults and children. We had seen him during our previous visit and we were still very impressed by his performance! As we wondered around the fair grounds, we saw many new attractions. Some of the activities we really enjoyed watching this year were, the amazing Trampoline Show , the Helicopter Rides and the judging of the Alpacas. We also witness the Ryan Day Percherons' amazing 8 Horse Hitch! This year we got to meet the fair's General Manager, Bob Campbell. Bob told us some of the fair's 158 year history and about its 700 plus volunteers! The Rockton World’s Fair is a great way to spend a Thanksgiving Day Weekend!

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Over 150 Years Ago…
In 1852 the first Beverly Agricultural Society Fair took place. This was the start of Rockton’s Fair. About 100 years ago, Andrew Kernighan suggested that the fair should be called “The World’s Fair” because all the world came to it. The next day local newspapers publish an article entitled “The World’s Fair at Rockton”. The idea stuck, this all according to the fair’s website. So, we were off to the world’s fair, Rockton’s that is! Rockton is located just northwest of Hamilton, Ontario. When we started off from Cobourg the skies were cloudy and gray, rain was in the forecast. As we neared Hamilton the rain started. We wondered what was in store for at the Fair. About 5 km from Rockton the heavens opened and the rain came down in buckets. We thought we were doomed. We had no rain costs or umbrellas! To drive all that way and be rained out would not be good! Just as we entered the road to the fair the rains stopped almost as quickly as they had begun, and, the sun came out! We parked our car in a muddy parking lot just across from the fair grounds. Because of the weather not too many people had arrived yet, so the lot had a lot of spaces left. We sloshed from the lot to the fair grounds, paid our $9.00 each and entered the portals of the Rockton World’s Fair

Into the Fair…
As soon as we walked through the gates, we were met with a wall a motion and sound. The Midway rides and games were directly to our left. Even though the rain had just stopped, people were filling the Midway aisles ready to try their luck at one of the games or take a thrill ride. On our right was a fruit and vegetable stand full of fresh produce. Beside the stand was there was a table full of harvest gourds and pumpkins. As we walked further into the fair grounds, we came to the D.A. Campbell Entertainment Centre. The sign outside announced that the schedule of events for that day. The sign on the door of the building said “Please! Be as quiet as possible. Children’s Public Speaking Contest in progress” Further along was The Meeting Place Stage. Again there was a sign announcing today’s Fair entertainment schedule. When we arrived they were just handing out awards for the Giant Pumpkin Contest, next up was Craig Douglas in his yellow suit. Craig is a very funny comic juggler who had the kids (and adults) mesmerized by his juggling antics. Our next stop was the Farm and Home Exhibition Hall. This building contained the Exhibitor Competition award winners’ creations. At the front showcases and centre displays were full of artworks, crafts, flower arrangements, preserves and more. Towards the back vendors were selling a variety of products and artisans were demonstrating their skills. Back out into the sun, we started to look for our next discovery…

Hunters and Jumpers…
From the Farm and Home Exhibition Hall we walked past the Rockton Lions Club food tent. A little further along we came to the Beverly Heritage Showring. Earlier we had seen riders and horses warming up. We were curious to see why, now we knew. A Hunter and Jumpers competition was about to start. We stood at the Show rings fence to watch. There were two rings, one for practicing and the other for the competition. The practice ring was set up with a few small jumps. Some of the riders were using them while others stood by their horses waiting for the competition to begin. Finally the announcer called for the riders to prepare for their turn to ride. She called out each riders name and the order in which they were to appear. The competition ring had been set up with a maze of different types and heights of jumps. It amazed me how each rider could remember the sequence they had to follow. The competition was all about accuracy and then speed. Knocking down a fence rail or failing to jump meant time points added or elimination from the competition. The grace and symmetry of rider and horse was beautiful. The power behind each jump was awe inspiring. We watched a number of heats and then headed to explore more of the fair...

A Lot to See…
Everywhere you looked, there was a lot to see and do at the Rockton World's Fair. After we had left the Showring we walked toward the barn area. Along the way we walked past a number of concession vendors selling a variety of products. About halfway to the barns we heard music coming from an area to our right. At the Country Competition Stage the Andrew and Victoria Duo were performing. The Duo, Victoria Boland and Andrew Rudd, was wonderful to listen to. Victoria has an amazing voice. Their act includes tribute performances featuring Shania Twain, David Bowie, Cher, George Harrison, Patsy Cline and more. We moved from the Competition Stage to the Food Court. The Aerial Angels were preparing to start. There were three performers. They opened by one of the acrobats bending over backwards with both hands and feet and the ground. The second performer climbed onto her stomach, took hold of the aerial ring and was lifted into the air. What she could do on those rings and how she could manipulate her body was awesome. We watched the trio perform several manoeuvers, including pulling a poor unsuspecting male into one of their routines, all to the appreciation of the audience. After the show we continued exploring the fair grounds. Back towards the Competition Stage was the Craft Centre. Crafters’ booths lined each wall. On the other side of the Centre, “Hear the Anvil Ring - Blacksmithing”, had set up their display. Across from them was the McLaughlin Clydesdales tent. The tent housed a number of beautiful, very large Clydesdales and the McLaughlin Haulage carriage. From the tent we heard the Call of the Cows, so we decided to investigate…

Agriculture…
The handlers were grooming the cows, getting ready to have them judged at the Agridome. Inside the stands were full of people, competitors and interested on-lookers, ready to hear the judges’ decision. The cows were lined up in a row patiently waiting to be led off the judging floor. The winners were announced and the next group of cows was led into the building while the others left. This happened a number of times while we were watching. Different classes of cows, all superbly groomed, were being prodded and manipulated into the perfect stance. The judges, their expertise showing, gazed, nodded and made notes as they judged each cow. The whole process is like a ballet performance in which each player knows their part perfectly. The classes we were watching finished, so we moved on to The Gathering Place building. This building contain all sorts of interesting farm related products and animals! Booths, displays and pens were set up around the walls of the building. More displays and booths were set up in the interior. Judi and I walked along each corridor stopping several times to look at a display or investigate an animal pen. There was everything from a lady spinning wool to a Brahma Bull laying quietly in its enclosure. Other attractions included: sheep, goat, a harvest table, a giant sandbox, baby chicks and a bee hive. After spending quite some time in The Gathering Place, we stepped outside to tour more of the fair…

Cloudy Again…
Just outside The Gathering Place a small antique tractor display had been set up. We walked around the tractors admiring as we went along. It was then back to the Food Court for a bite to eat at the Lions Food Tent. After receiving our food we sat at a picnic table. As we were eating, the Children’s Mini Pedal Tractor Pull Competition was taking place. Just like the “Big Boys”, the kids (girls and boys) climbed on their pedal tractors and tried to drag a heavy sled as far as they could. It was fun to watch and interesting to see the intensity in each kids face as they pedaled with all their might. After several heats, a winner was declared. After the tractor pull competition we decided to go back to the Showring to watch more jumping. This time the emphasis was on time. The riders and horses race around the course with much greater speed then the first session we watched. It was very exciting. We stayed watching the competition for some time. Reluctantly we decided to go. The sun was disappearing as the sky became cloudy again. We walked back towards the main gates. The grounds were filling with people, ready to enjoy an afternoon at the Rockton World's Fair. We passed through the main gate and crossed the street to the parking lot. As I looked down the road, the cars were lined up waiting their turn to enter the parking lot. Judi and I drove from the parking lot and started our long journey home. After about 10 minutes of driving, the clouds burst and the rains came. I am not sure how long the rain lasted, but I am sure that the people entering the fair were going to have a lot of fun not matter what the weather was. 

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