PARIS Cheryl Muir is thankful for the dedication of the more than 500 volunteers who make the Paris Fair a success each year.
“The volunteers are amazing,” says the manager of the Paris Agricultural Society.
“Some of them are fourth and fifth generations helping out here, or serving as board members. It’s a close-knit family.”
Muir estimates that, with set-up and takedown, some volunteers put in more than 100 hours each during the fair’s run.
This year’s fair, the 161st edition, will open Aug. 29 and continue until Sept. 2.
Preparation for such a multi-faceted event requires 40 different committees, whose members are tasked with everything from determining categories for entries to securing judges and more.
Exhibit entries are dropped off Aug. 28, and judging takes place throughout the day Aug. 29, except for poultry, which is judged Aug. 30. Livestock and horse shows are judged as they happen.
Muir notes that the junior divisions of the competitions are popular.
“The children come in and collect their (prize) money from the office,” she says. “It might be only $2.50.
“They are just beaming; so excited and proud.”
Promoting agriculture has been the core of the Paris Fair’s mission throughout its history.
“Children get a lot of enjoyment seeing baby chicks hatch, and watching the cows,” Muir notes. “For teens, it’s important to get the agriculture word out to them. There are a lot of good careers to be had within that industry that they may have never been exposed to before.”
Muir says the fair provides a sense of homecoming for people who have grown up on farms or in the area.
“Paris has been a rural community forever,” she says. “A good part of our members are fourth and fifth generations of farming families.”
Muir points out that Paris is projected to double in size in the next 10 years, with many people moving in from urban centres, where they may not have been exposed to the agriculture elements.
“Someone goes to the grocery store and gets lettuce without realizing all the different elements and livelihoods affected to get that from the farm to your table.”
Muir says there is a big sense of community at the fair.
“I don’t think you can walk through these gates without feeling a sense or camaraderie and community, like a family.”
Last year, just under 50,000 people attended the fair. Of those, about 40 per cent travelled more than 25 kilometres, Muir notes.
“It’s an end of summer hurrah for everyone.”
The fair’s annual highlights include demolition derbies, a monster truck show, freestyle motocross show, a BMX bicycle stunt team, and Little Ray’s animal show. Combined with livestock shows and displays, “it’s a multi-generational event with something for everyone,” Muir says.
A competition to crown the Paris Fair ambassador is a tradition on opening night.
Muir says three contestants are in the running but more are welcome.
“It is not too late to register, and we have organizations ready to sponsor them,” she says. “There are wonderful gifts for all contestants including a scholarship for the winner.”
If interested, call fair office at 519-442-2823.
A concert on Sept. 1 will feature American country music recording artist Granger Smith. Admission is with the fair entry ticket.
Something new for concertgoers this year is a front-of-stage, standing-room-only area accessible by donation.
“The proceeds from that will go to the Canadian Critical Incident Stress Foundation, which focuses on the well-being of our emergency medical responders,” Muir says.
“It’s a great cause, and Granger Smith himself is a huge supporter of veterans. We thought it would go hand-in-hand to promote what he does. He’s really dedicated to it.”
She says visitors to the fair love country music.
“I don’t see that changing in the near future. It works. Don’t wreck what works.”
A complete schedule of attractions at the 161st annual Paris Fair is available online at www.parisfairgrounds.com.