Here in the diaspora on the foggy edge of the world once a year the locals put on a fair. This year is their 148th. That means they started twenty years before the first Icelanders skipped off the ferry and exclaimed, “What have we come to? Is it really summer all year?”
The Saanich Fair is the oldest continuous agricultural fair in Western Canada. It covers so much ground that I didn’t manage to cover it all before I tired out and came home.
Since it is an agricultural fair, there are 4-H sheep judging competitions, a light horse show, rabbit judging, draft horse events, oodles and boodles of llamas and alpacas. There’s a corner market, a farmer’s market, Victoria market gardeners, and a flower arrangement competition. There’s a highland dance competition.
It’s not all just staring at the animals as they stare back at you. If your kids don’t know where t heir milk comes from, there is milking parlour demo that will show them. There’s also a rabbit care and grooming demonstration and a chance to talk to the donkeys and their owners. There are local farm talks and a chance to hear Marilyn: The Backyard Chicken Lady.
For those who like food and are competitive there is a pie eating competition and a spam eating competition. For the kids there are the pedal tractor races and the zucchini car races. If you haven’t filled up on pie, you can enter the cupcake, ice cream or watermelon eating contests.
There are, of course, the rides. The carnival area is so large that the trucks pulling the rides take up acres of space.
For me, the big thing about the Saanich Fair is that people bring their passions to proudly show them, whether that is roosters, ducks, eggs, apples, grapes, pickles, pies, cookies, bread, honey, goats. And more. I get to see the best that the peninsula (and beyond in some cases) provides.
There are flower competitions for every flower you can think of.
To my joy and delight I came across a booth that said Gluten Free Baked Goods. And were they good! I ate a pocket filled with feta and spinach and went back for a pocket filled with peaches and apples. Before I left, I returned only to find the spinach and feta sold out so I bought a pie and a tart. The owner/baker was shaking her head in surprise at the popularity of the spinach-feta pockets. She’ll have more ready tomorrow. It sounds like she’ll be baking all night.
There are booths and booths and displays and displays. There are numerous ethnic food booths, Lebanese, Jewish, Filipino, and many more. It’s a bit like Winnipeg’s Folklorama mixed in with Salish art, fresh vegetables, turkeys and miniature horses.
I ran out of energy before I ran out of things to see. For three days there is entertainment on the main stage. You could go to the fair for three days and just sit and listen. I promise myself that I will do that some year but when I pass through the gates with the surging crowd, I’m caught up with all the things I want to see and experience. I stop at the stage and watch and listen for a bit but there’s the amazing 4-H displays, the art and photography show, the… You get the idea. My feet take on a life of their own. They lead me here and there, willy nilly, into the heritage building filled with items I remember from my childhood, to the blacksmith demonstrations, to youngsters doing tricky manoeuvers on the backs of very large horses.
The line up for food and long. There are signs everywhere saying bring a water bottle with you. There are free fill ups. It’s that kind of Fair. The kind you should plan on attending some time. The kind you should take your kids to, especially if they live in the city. Get them up close to goat or an alpaca. Maybe even have them hold a rabbit.