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By Rob Paul
For over a century, the Bolton Fall Fair has been a staple in the Caledon community, but last year, due to the pandemic, it had to be cancelled.
This year, it's back for its 163rd year and things get started Thursday, September 23.
The Albion and Bolton Agricultural Society runs the fair annually and although it won't quite be like other years, the organizers are ecstatic that it's back.
It kicks off on Thursday night with toonie rides before the Friday night tractor pull, and it'll be in full force on Saturday highlighted by the derby, before concluding Sunday afternoon.
Not having an event as important as the fair was a hit to the community last year, but being able to return and be back in business makes this year's that much sweeter.
“We're very excited; it's been fun having something to look forward to,” said Jeanette Burnside, Bolton Fair advertising co-chair. “This whole summer we've been figuring out all the logistics and the protocols that are necessary in order to have an event to bring the community together, and we're very excited it's here.”
It wasn't easy planning a fair that attracts thousands with all the unknowns throughout the last few months, and there's been some changes to accommodate health and safety protocols. Yet it's here and that's the most important thing, says Burnside.
“It has been very difficult,” she said. “When we got to Step 3 of the reopen and everything was pretty much able to open, we made the decision that we would go ahead and plan something. We've kind of done a hybrid version of the fair, like some things are happening virtually—our competitions will be virtual—and some things like the tractor pull and derby are happening in person. We've tried to make a few modifications, so that we can have as much as possible outside to allow for a lot more to happen given the latest restrictions. But it's been fun seeing it come together.”
Despite optimism that the fair would happen, being able to bounce back and have the fair this year was never a guarantee given the situation.
“It was something we definitely wanted to do this year, if it was possible, because I know a lot of other fairs in the area—like Schomberg—had to cancel for two years in a row,” she said. “We're lucky with the timing of our fair that we thought we'd be able to go, but even last week was kind of the date we said if anything changes by then, it was the last chance to pull the plug because we have contracts with vendors and entertainment. So, after that, it was sort of like, we're going ahead with this no matter what now.”
They continued holding out hope throughout the changing regulations and it was tense, but with health and safety protocols finalized Burnside doesn't think they'll run into any issues.
“The changing restrictions have been difficult. The latest announcement last Tuesday was regarding the vaccine passport, and it not being required for outdoor events, and so we won't be requiring that for the event this year,” she said. “Obviously though we still have a lot of protocols in place with masking, social distancing, and capacity limits.”
The amount of effort that goes into planning the Bolton Fair is nothing to bat an eyelash at, so Burnside said they wanted to see if the community would even be interested, and to their relief the support was through the roof both from residents and participants.
“We've had a lot of people interested and before we decided if we were going to go ahead with it this year, we wanted to gauge public interest on social media,” she said. “We did do some surveys to see if people would be comfortable coming because we didn't want to put in all this effort and then have people not feel safe coming. When we said there was potential that we would be coming back, everybody was overwhelmingly supportive of it and wanting it to come back. There haven't been that many pulls in the area or in Ontario this summer and same with derbies so the participants in those are so excited and they're rearing to go.”
The fair has always relied on volunteers and community support, but with the new challenges presented by the pandemic, that's been even more true of this year and Burnside hopes they can continue to pull in volunteers to lend a helping hand.
“We're so excited, but there's still a lot of work to do and we're still looking for volunteers to help fill some gaps that we've had,” she said. “We've had a few new roles needed in terms of cleaning crews and counting people for the few buildings we have open to ensure we're under the capacity limit. We do have a 5,000 total capacity limit and we're recommending people buy tickets online in advance to ensure that they get in because we don't want to have to turn people away if we're at capacity.”
Even with the difficulties of planning the fair, the schedule is loaded this year and there's even a craft beer festival for the first time.
It might not be exactly like in year's past, but even so, this is the type of community-driven event that's been sorely missed over the last 18 months.
“On the Thursday night just, the midway will be open, but on the Friday night we'll be doing our tractor pull, which is new this year,” Burnside said. “Normally we do the tractor pull in June, but in June, we obviously couldn't do it so we moved it to Friday night of the fair and we moved the derby from Friday to Saturday night of the fair to accommodate for that. Another new thing that we have this year that we haven't done in the past is the craft beer festival, that will be on Friday and Saturday. It was something we had talked about doing in 2019 to bring out some local breweries because we have so many in the area. Obviously, we couldn't put it into place in 2020 with the fair being cancelled, but we really wanted to try it this year and the thinking was that even if it's small, we can always grow on it. It also helped that we had someone who was keen on running it, and we'll never say no to that.”
For more information regarding the Bolton Fall Fair or to check the event schedule, visit boltontractorpull.ca/bolton-fall-fair/.
Post date: 2021-09-23 11:21:38
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