The weather gods smiled and a record crowd attended the 2022 Salmon Arm Fair.
“It was a good year, with a 35 per cent increase over our best year ever,” said fair manager Jim McEwan, noting the numbers were better on all three days than any other year, including 2018.
“Saturday knocked it out of the park with close to 10,000 people.”
McEwan travelled the Saturday morning parade route in advance to thank the volunteers and was impressed with the large crowds that had assembled.
Back on the fairgrounds, the introduction of online ticket sales this year resulted in long lineups as many attendees were unaware of the new feature.
But word spread throughout the lines and those who then ordered their tickets on their smart phones, got a QR code that gained them immediate access.
“People need to get used to it, but we’ll do a better job to make it easier to buy online,” McEwan said. “This made it easy for volunteers and people were over the moon happy as we had debit/credit machines for the first time.”
He said the sea of smiling faces told him that everybody was happy to be out and having fun. And food vendors were pleased and looking forward to coming back next year.
McEwan was delighted to see the big white tent in front of the main stage was “jam-packed” for much of the entertainment arranged again this year by Gil Risling.
He noted the crowds’ enthusiastic response to Adam Fitzpatrick and his Elvis Evolution performances, and was particularly happy to see large crowds for the Shuswap Dance Center and Just For Kicks dancers.
The Super Dogs drew standing-room-only crowds that sometimes spilled onto the performance area.
“They had to keep people moving back, but that’s not a bad problem to have,” said McEwan, noting jousting shows with the Knights of Valour were a big draw. “It’s the first time that the grandstand has been that full since the Demo Derby days.”
One of the “knights” was dismounted on Saturday, landed badly and went to the hospital for X-rays. He was a little banged up and sore but was back on his horse on Sunday.
“Between the sword fighting and the jousting, people really enjoyed it, and somebody said something along the lines of it being unbelievable,” said McEwan.
McEwan gave kudos to narrator Shane Adams who, as he does on the History Channel show, kept the crowd rooting for their favourite knight.
“They kept everything as it was in medieval times when jousting really was the sport of kings,” McEwan said, noting the lances were made of Sturdy pine. “The guys participating are the toughest guys I know.”
The West Coast Thunder Drill Team from Abbotsford had two new members and had to bring a couple of horses out of retirement.
“They were impressive and well-choreographed,” he said. “They had a great turnout for their routines and I’d love to have them back as well.”
On a sombre note, the 4-H community established a memorial wall in the dairy barn, with photos of three semi drivers who lost their lives in a recent crash near Field along with all the cows who died in the accident.
“Phil Wright did mention the tragedy when he welcomed everybody and I think it was quite emotional for him,” said McEwan of the president of the Salmon Arm and Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association which hosts the fair.
Hearing of complaints about a lack of Fall Fair books this year, McEwan said most people enter one or two categories at most, then dispose of the books, which cost a lot to provide and isn’t environmentally friendly. He said the board will discuss other ways of providing information.
Despite the entry information being available online only, McEwan said this year was the best ever.
“Lego was phenomenal and we had more scarecrows than before,” he said, noting the animal representation was great while canning entries were about average.
Noticeably missing were arts and crafts, textiles and needle arts, which was due to the fact there was no volunteer convenor for either position.
The We all Pull Together event for the local branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association required teams of 10 to compete by pulling an antique fire truck 100 feet.
“The men’s soccer team said they’d beat us hands down, but we said, ‘keep in mind we’re an agriculturist association, just watch,’” McEwan laughed, noting most of the association members were volunteering somewhere on the fairgrounds. “We were a little light so we had a couple of Belgian draft horses. It was lots of fun and we look forward to having that again as it gives us a chance to talk about mental health.”
McEwan praised the Shuswap Food Action Society for organizing speakers for the new and highly successful program on food security, something that will be on the slate for next year.
Also with an eye to the future, McEwan is planning to engage the Indigenous community.
“It is really important that we invite and align ourselves with our Indigenous community,” he said, noting he would like to follow the Calgary Stampede model, which he witnessed first hand and calls magical. “There’s a lot we can do that we aren’t doing. You get a much greater appreciation (for the culture) when you talk to an elder.”
On a sour note, McEwan says some volunteers had to put up with verbal abuse by rude drivers, who did not like having to go out of their way because of barricades erected to protect people.
“Over by Fifth Avenue and 10th Street, we had two young girls about 16 or 17 and one driver spat on them while another driver came up and was swearing at them,” said McEwan. “Each year it’s an issue and there’s fewer volunteers because nobody wants to be spat at. It’s a couple of hours of inconvenience for drivers who should plan accordingly and respect volunteers.”
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