The Salmon Arm Fall Fair has a long and interesting history. In keeping with the traditions of North American agricultural fairs, it has, since its inception in 1897, brought the people of the Shuswap region together to celebrate the community. We show off our livestock, our garden and field produce, our handiwork, and we have fun.
Initially, the fair was a one-day event. Exhibits of apples, flowers, vegetables, butter and grain were set up in the hall over McGuire’s store. Athletic events and horse racing were included as part of the festivities. 1898's fair saw an increase in the range of exhibits that included a greater variety of fruits and dairy produce, fancy work, and livestock such as poultry, dairy stock and horses. The second fall fair also included a baseball game between Enderby and Salmon Arm.
Those were the beginnings. The fair has been held in a variety of venues - the hall above McGuire’s store, the Farmer’s Exchange Building, the Agricultural Hall - later, the Drill Hall, J.L. Jackson School, and the Memorial Arena.
The fair has been held yearly since 1946. At first there were no commercial concessions or exhibits. The Women’s Institute served dinner and tea; local service clubs ran the carnival and sold ice cream, hot dogs and coffee. A midway was introduced in 1954, and by 1957, commercial exhibits were also established. As time went on the fair became a two and then three day event. During the sixties, Friday afternoon was declared an official holiday; stores were closed so that employees could attend the fair.
Over the years the fair has introduced a variety of events, many of which are still featured: baby show (1909); "best loaf made by a man" (1928); logging show (1949); gymkhana (1953); parade (1963); mutt show(1969); horseshoe pitching contest, Salmon Arm royalty coronation (1973), old time fiddlers’ competition, chariot and pony chuckwagon racing (1972); archery demonstrations(1978); dog training demonstrations (1979); tug of war, sheep shearing, sheep to shawl competition; heavy horse skidding(1980).
But the most important aspects of the fair, its very heart and soul, are the display and competition of agricultural products, domestic livestock, and home arts. That focus has not changed since 1897. This is more than just an event the public pays to see or hear; it is one in which every person of the community can become part of by entering an exhibit. As Gordon Priestman said in the Observer, September 7, 1973: "The fair is for everyone. And the more of us to get involved, the better it will be."
~ written by Pat Graf