Threshing Bee to mark 175th anniversary of Aberfoyle Agricultural Society

Aberfoyle is holding a celebration 175 years in the making.

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Aberfoyle Agricultural Society and an old-time tradition will be the newest addition to this year’s fair lineup on Sept. 11 and 12.

Agricultural society past president Don McKay and current president Charlie Tilt were at Puslinch council on July 15 to provide an update to this year’s festivities.

But those looking for a midway this year may be disappointed.

“We are not going to have a midway this year,” Tilt said.

He explained that in response to problems at last year’s fair – including a dismal showing of rides and amusements from the company hired to provide them – the agricultural society has decided to focus and expand on its roots.

Tilt said a number of things are going to change with the fair this year. He said insurance issues have been looked after, as have judging issues because the 4-H sheep club has expanded tremendously and the garden club has almost doubled in size.

Tilt added the society now has the go-ahead to have chickens and waterfowl at the fair. He said, “All I can say is that if it doesn’t rain, it’s going to be a sunny fair.”

McKay, a retired meteorologist, quipped, “it’s too early to provide a long-range forecast.”

He added, “Because this is the 175th anniversary of the society we wanted to do it up big for the fair.”

McKay said the community is fortunate to have a group that  put on a threshing bee both five and 10 years ago.

“We approached the group to see if they were interested in being at the fair. So they’ve come out of retirement and are busy getting the steam engines and old tractors and hopefully having some good grain to thresh this September,” he said.

Wagon loads of piled sheaves will be fed into the threshing machines throughout the day. Local collectors have agreed to bring their antique tractors, trucks, cars and equipment for display. Other attractions include shingle makers, saw mill, rope making and a stone crusher. Food and refreshments will be offered in the threshing area by the Puslinch Optimist Club.

In addition to the regular fair, McKay said some of the new things include a lawn tractor pull on Saturday afternoon at 4pm. The antique tractor pull returns on Friday.

“The big thing, along with the other excellent things at the fair, is this threshing bee,” said McKay. “We’ve invited the MP and MPP to the fair and dinner.”

McKay noted that in the past, the fair has made use of additional lands behind the community centre for parking.

“This year, we’d still like to use it for parking, but this is also where the threshing bee will be held.”

McKay said the community is also fortunate to have a local farmers market right on the fairgrounds. He noted other fairs have markets but not on the fairgrounds.

This year, market vendors will be asked to leave by 3pm to make way for the threshing bee dinner in the arena.

“We’re going to have an old fashioned threshing bee dinner and we thought this would be an ideal place to hold it – and provides a place to have the event under cover,” said McKay.

“We’re looking forward to having you all attend.”

Tilt added that “children are going to be admitted free and we are going to honour the longest member of the society.”

Councillor Matthew Bulmer said the municipality and the organization have a long history of working together.

“In some ways you could say it was kind of the agricultural society to let us use your land for the last hundred and some odd years,” said Bulmer, adding he has no issue allowing the fair to use the land at the back of the community centre.

“This event is a great community benefit and I look forward to enjoying it.”

Councillor Ken Roth was in full favour of the fair using the facilities.

Roth quipped that with McKay’s track record for predicting weather for the fair “perhaps you should wait until the week after (to make a prediction).”

McKay laughed, replying,  “And if it’s sunny I’ll take full credit.”

Councillor Wayne Stokley also welcomed the use of the land. Stokley noted there were a number of issues encountered with the midway last year so fair organizers brought in some bouncy castles.

“Are you providing anything for the young ones (this year)?” he asked.

McKay noted the map provided to council indicates five bouncy castles will be on site this year.

He said a representative of the midway company from last year made a presentation to the society.

“He said it was going to be great … then asked for a large deposit. We said ‘thanks, but no thanks’,” explained McKay.

He added, “Our fair isn’t really aimed at the upper to mid-teens, it is more for the young families and kids and that is who we want to cater to.”

Councillor Susan Fielding said she also looks forward to this year’s fair, adding, “We’re going to hold Don totally responsible for the weather.”

Tilt also stated there are rumours the threshing bee will have a saloon – and organizers wanted to nip that in the bud.

“I’ve never heard of a threshing bee with a saloon,” he said.

Mayor Dennis Lever said he  is looking forward to the event, noting, “175 years is a pretty big deal.”

Initially known as the Puslinch Agricultural Society when it was formed in 1840, the society continues to survive, aiming to increase the awareness of, and improve the quality of agriculture, home crafts and the rural lifestyle.