Stratford’s fall fair is back

Stratfords fall fair is back

For the first time in three years, thousands of visitors to Stratford’s 181-year-old fall fair will be able to ride a Ferris wheel, play laser tag, and interact with many of the animals raised by Perth County farmers.

For the first time in three years, thousands of visitors to Stratford’s 181-year-old fall fair will be able to ride a Ferris wheel, play laser tag, and interact with many of the animals raised by Perth County farmers.

The Stratford and District Agricultural Society officially kicked off its signature event Thursday evening at the Rotary Complex, marking the first time since 2019 the annual fair could move forward unhampered by pandemic-related public health restrictions.

That means midway rides, junk food, arts and crafts, agricultural exhibits, and plenty of other activities are all ready to go until the fair wraps up on Sunday.

Midway operator Campbell Amusements and the agricultural society’s many volunteers have been setting up all week.

“We came in here Monday morning and it reminded me of one of our beehives at home,” said Martin Ritsma, chair of the Stratford Fall Fair since 2005. “It was absolutely amazing.”

Among them was Jill Thorpe, who was putting the final touches on a quilting exhibit inside Community Hall a few hours before the fair’s opening ceremonies Thursday evening. Entries from area quilters are down this year compared to 2019, which is “a little disappointing,” she said, but Thorpe is looking forward to showcasing 50 handcrafted quilts over the next few days.

“I really enjoy the work and making things for the fair, to get to see people again and get to socialize a little bit,” said Thorpe, a quilter herself. “Hopefully the weather will co-operate.”

Susan Elliott holds the ladder for Jill Thorpe while they set up a quilt display at the Stratford Rotary Complex on Thursday, the first day of the 181st Stratford Fall Fair.  The fair, making a full-scale return for the first time since 2019, runs until Sunday.  (Chris Montanini/Stratford Beacon Herald)
Susan Elliott holds the ladder for Jill Thorpe while they set up a quilt display at the Stratford Rotary Complex on Thursday, the first day of the 181st Stratford Fall Fair. The fair, making a full-scale return for the first time since 2019, runs until Sunday. (Chris Montanini/Stratford Beacon Herald)

Dark clouds hovered above the midway’s Ferris wheel on Thursday. Environment Canada expects those to clear by Friday, though there is a 40 per cent chance of rain on Saturday and a 70 per cent chance of rain on Sunday.

Martin, too, will have his fingers crossed for good weather. If all goes well, he expects about 15,000 people to visit the fair, similar to the numbers the event was drawing prior to the pandemic.

This year’s fair will be familiar to those who have visited in the past. Events from The Perth County 4-H Association are among those that are also returning this year.

There is an exception, however. Farm to You exhibits in the field house will not include birds this year due to concerns about an H5N1 outbreak affecting farmers across the country.

“There’s no baby chicks, which will disappoint some kids, but once again we’re doing the correct thing,” Ritsma said.

The important thing, he added, is that area farmers will be able to reconnect with members of the wider community again, a major part of the fair’s origins.

“It’s so important,” Ritsma said. “This is our ability to connect to the everyday consumer.”

A full schedule of events is available on the agricultural society’s website.

Admission to the Stratford Fall Fair has been free since organizers switched to a sponsorship-focused model several years ago.

“I think that encourages people to experience the whole fair,” Ritsma said. “I have no doubt that our numbers are going to be exceptional.”

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