Older crowd enjoys leisurely day at the fair
Those who have attended the Norfolk County Fair for many decades remember when October weather was much more fall-like than the present.
“I remember coming in a winter coat and the times it was snowy,” says Kathy Dreyer of Boston, who has attended the fair for more than 50 years.
“But that was long ago. It’s never like that anymore.”
Heather Johnson of Port Dover remembers that the trees on the fairgrounds were reliably colourful every year at this time when she was younger. So far this fall, some trees have turned but many remain green.
Johnson attributes this to nights in the fall that are warmer than they were in the past. The trend continues this autumn. A third of October is over, yet Norfolk, its farmers and its gardeners are still waiting for the season’s first hard frost – something that once reliably occurred in September.
“When we would bring our kids to the fair, the leaves on the trees were well turned by then and half the leaves were on the ground,” Johnson said Wednesday.
“Now, there is hardly any colour. That’s the warmer nights we’ve been having.”
Wednesday was Seniors Day at the fair — a good day to gather with friends and reminisce about the Norfolk County Fair as it used to be.
Dannette Storey of Simcoe has been coming to the fair for nearly 45 years. She recalls it was a September when she arrived in Norfolk County from Cape Breton Island.
“The fair was my first big outing,” said Storey, who has since become a fair volunteer.
“I came to Simcoe in a September and everybody was talking about the fair. That was a must go-to — going to the fair.”
Storey recalls the anticipation in the community as the day approached for Tommy Hunter or some other major country-and-western star to perform at the old wooden grandstand.
“I see a lot of cheering and a lot of happy people,” Storey said. “So many people looked forward to coming home for the week to be with friends and family.”
Roy Cowan, 85, of Simcoe has attended the fair for more than 70 years.
Cowan recalls sitting with country-music singer Jeannie C. Riley (Harper Valley PTA) during the star’s visit while he was a volunteer with St. John Ambulance. Cowan continues to volunteer at the fair and takes on odd jobs as needed.
“We had a three-day fair back then,” Cowan said. “It has got a lot longer.
“There was more to the horse show then. There were motorcycle thrill riders on the midway. They had a lot of different shows on the midway. The grandstand had country music all the time – music from Nashville.”
The Wednesday of the fair is a good time for Seniors Day. Local students get Young Canada Day out of their system on the Tuesday, making for a leisurely, laid-back atmosphere the following day. Seniors Day is the occasion when many nursing home residents enjoy the sights and sounds of the midway.
Seniors get a break on admission on Seniors Day. Some vendors alter their product mix to cater to this demographic.
Live entertainment at the Simcoe Recreation Centre Wednesday afternoon included the classic country stylings of Roger and Friends. Over supper, live entertainment was provided by the Gentlemen of Harmony barbershop singers.
“When we have a beautiful, sun-shiny day like today, it’s a blessing because our seniors have earned it,” says George Araujo, general manager of the Norfolk County Fair.
Araujo said the Homecraft building is a popular stop on Seniors Day because of its focus on domestic skills such as quilting, canning and baking. Grandparents make a bee-line for the lower-level where entries from Norfolk and area schools are displayed.
Donna Comer of Port Dover has been coming to the fair for more than 60 years. She says Young Canada Day was as big for her peers as it is today.
“I remember coming with a pay envelope full of quarters because everything was 25 cents,” Comer said.
Comer recalls the rides that once dominated the midway. Some stomachs will churn at the mention of their names: the Round-Up, the Tilt-a-Whirl, Salt-and-Pepper, the Zipper, the Scrambler and the Rock-o-Planes among them.
“I remember the Fish Pond,” Comer said. “That was the only game we ever played because it only cost a nickel.”