SHAWVILLE Aug. 27 - Sept. 2, 2019
On Thursday, the 163rd edition of the Shawville Fair finally opened to the public, drawing thousands of people to kick off the festivities.
The gates opened at 4 p.m. and the midway started up an hour after, the sight of carnies setting up their attractions mixed with the strong odors of food trucks and diesel, made it apparent that the biggest celebration in the Pontiac was about to get underway.
When things initially began, the foot-traffic was minimal, but the fairgrounds got significantly more lively as the night went on.
At around 6:30 p.m., flocks of people migrated to the outdoor ring behind the arena to find the best seats to catch the mightiest motors in town at the Truck and Tractor Pull.
The event was quite popular as both sides of the track were lined up with hundreds of people packing the wooden bleachers as many others stood along the railing, by the time the sun came down.
Organized by owners of M&L Enterprises Mel and Lynne Langton, the event was emceed by local tractor-pull announcer Marc Chartrand.
According to Lynne, she and her husband have been putting on around eight to 10 truck and tractor pulls around Ontario and Quebec every year and have been doing so for the last 25 years.
“It’s always very well-attended,” she said. “It’s always been on Thursday night.”
The contest featured over 25 riders competing in eight separate classes, using their powerful machines to pull a large, metal float weighing upwards of 60,000 pounds as far as they could down the track.
Inside the arena, a different kind of competition was taking place, this time a cake decorating showdown.
Making its debut at the fair, the event featured 12 teams battling it out to see who came out with the best masterpiece, while people packed the stands, cheering them on as loud as they could.
Each team was presented a cake with the challenge of decorating it in the most festive way possible according to a specific theme in limited time. Teams were judged on their end product’s overall look, the creativity of their design and their ability to best represent their respective theme.
When it was all done, judges assessed the results and at the end a team made up of Beachburg and Cobden fair board members came out on top.
After participating in the event, Pontiac MP Will Amos spoke about how much he enjoyed the sense of amicable competition the contest provided.
“It’s an intergenerational event,” he said. “It’s for everyone. It lights everyone up, we laugh and it’s not too serious.”
Right after the competition, emcee Phil Holmes kicked off the fair’s official opening ceremony by singing “O Canada” as the crowd joined in harmony.
Holmes highlighted the significance of the fair throughout his life and how grateful he is to have been a part of it from one year to the next.
“When you grow up in Shawville, the Shawville Fair is such a big event and to be standing on this stage as the master of ceremony of the opening ceremony really is an honour.”
Afterwards, several people including MRC Warden Jane Toller, Amos and Shawville Mayor Sandra Murray delivered speeches detailing their appreciation for the fair, its volunteers and its significance to the culture of the Pontiac.
“Through thick and thin, no matter what the Pontiac has been through, agriculture remains,” said Toller. “It was a heritage and we celebrate it today. This is a wonderful weekend for families.”
“It’s a huge testimony that after 163 years there can be so much community spirit and good will to keep an event like this going,” she added.
For Amos, Labour Day weekend has always been an exciting time that he’s looked forward to year after year and an event that holds an undeniable place in the region’s history.
“I love the Shawville Fair,” he said. “Every single year this is a happy, happy moment… it’s so much fun. I feel as though this is really the pre-eminent tradition in the Pontiac. This event pre-dates confederation… it really is as old as community in the Pontiac.”After the speeches, 2018 Shawville Fair Ambassador Alex Mayhew presented ribbons to each of the five best exhibits at the fair. First place went to Kelly King, Paul Scheel and Elwyn Lang with their beer tent exhibit.
As Mayhew’s final duty as the fair’s ambassador, he followed up by passing the torch to the 2019 Shawville Fair Ambassador Cadence Beck.
Beck thanked everyone who made her opportunity possible and invited attendees to stop by and have a chat with her and other ambassadors over the weekend.
She also spoke about the questionnaire she filled out that led to her getting the position and explained what she thinks makes the annual carnival significant for the Pontiac.
“As someone who lives in the agricultural world, I think the fair is important because it gives us a chance to celebrate the cropping season coming to an end and the beginning of preparation for the new one.”
Pontiac Agricultural Society President Tyler McCann followed up with a lengthy speech of his own, delivered in both French and English. In his speech, he referred to agriculture, entertainment, families and visitors as cornerstones for the fair’s sustained success.
“Welcoming you all to the fair is like welcoming you all to our house,” he said. “A house that was built in 1856… because it was built on a strong foundation, it is a house that stands strong after 163 years.”
Directors Sara Knox and Vaughan Bastien ended the ceremony, as they presented dedicated service awards to two long-time volunteers: Andrew Simms and Peter Haughton.
At the end of the ceremony, the decorated cakes were auctioned off to the highest bidders in the crowd. Raising nearly $2,500, all the funds are to go towards subsidizing a new elevator in the Shawville Lions Hall.
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