Society calls on community to celebrate spirit of fair

DRAYTON – Small-town fairs are a traditional source of small-town fun, but the fair won’t be happening this year in Drayton, not unlike many other towns in the province.

The impact of COVID-19 on seasonal fairs has been devastating, and there are concerns it may actually lead to the demise of some agricultural societies, many of them in excess of 150 years old.

Plus it can have a ripple effect on the community.  According to the Association of Fairs and Exhibitions “for every dollar that fairs and ag. societies earn, $4.54 is put into the local community.”

Not surprisingly, the Drayton Mapleton Agricultural Society has directly given back to its community by donating funds from its lottery to farm safety and 4-H programs, and by providing post-secondary scholarships to students in agricultural programs.

Society treasurer Arlie Zantinge says, “We are one of the few ag societies that own our fairgrounds and buildings. We don’t get breaks on utility bills like water, gas and hydro, and now we have little opportunity for income. Plus, we always seem to be dealing with unexpected issues. It’s never-ending down at the fairgrounds.”

Those essential sources of income include not only the fair itself, but also government grants, winter storage in the old arena, grounds and building rental, event catering, and raffles. Other than winter storage, most of the other income sources will not materialize this year.

“We are facing day to day challenges due to changes”, Zantinge said.  “It may now be possible for us to safely rent out our facilities in a limited fashion, but whether people will want to rent them, and will follow all the safety guidelines, is uncertain.”

Some of the big events that have had to be postponed include the 50th anniversary of the Walker’s Campin’ and Jammin’.

Another large source of income for Drayton’s fair comes from community sponsors, many of whom are small businesses that have also been financially impacted by COVID-19.

Despite all of the setbacks, the Drayton Mapleton Agricultual Society continues to meet monthly in a virtual fashion, and is making efforts to ensure 2020 is not a total dud.

The 2020 Virtual Fair was introduced a few weeks ago on the Drayton/Mapleton Fair Facebook Page.  It can also be found on the society’s webpage,

The virtual fair is completely online, and includes activities for youngsters from kindergarten to Grade 8, as well as some for all ages, including adults.  Clear instructions are provided, and there are cash prizes.  The deadline for submissions is Aug. 6.

Secondly, a livestock video series will be announced soon, highlighting what judges look for in winning dairy, beef, sheep, goat, and horse entries. Society secretary Amy Hennessy is heading up this project along with her husband, Ben.

“We are hoping to get some judges to participate,” reported Hennessy; “Stay tuned to the Drayton/Mapleton Fair Facebook page for more details and dates.”

On Aug. 8, the Drayton Mapleton Agricultural Society invites everyone to celebrate fair weekend by partaking in a fundraiser takeout dinner. The menu includes smoked pork chops, potato salad, Mediterranean bean salad, and a choice of chocolate cake or lemon pie for $15 per person, or $50 per family of four.

Pre-ordering is required, and payment will be by e-transfer or correct change only.  Pickups will be scheduled between 5 and 6:30pm at the fairgrounds (or later if requested) to allow for safe physical distancing.

To pre-order your meal and arrange a pickup time, email, or text or call Arlie Zantinge at 519-638-3323. The deadline for orders is noon on Aug. 7.

“This institution has survived and thrived for more than 163 years,” said president John Klaassen.

“I hope that a determined united front will show our community that we have the strength and resolve to face whatever is coming this year.”

Sue Hogenkamp