The Shawville Fair – more than just agriculture

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Agriculture has been a major part of Canadian history. Our First Nations planted and grew maize (corn), potatoes, beans, squash, and sunflowers. Early European settlers adopted these and added new agricultural products and techniques. As Canada expanded west, it became increasingly a major “breadbasket” to the world.

With the development of Canada’s agriculture, came the agricultural or country fair. The first documented agricultural fair was held in Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1765. The Pontiac Agricultural Society organized the first Shawville Fair in 1856 on land donated by James Shaw. Since then, the Shawville Fair has become the annual event for MRC Pontiac and much of western Quebec and eastern Ontario. But today’s fair is more than an exhibition of local agricultural achievements. The fair is a meeting place for the communities and people of the area. It brings together town and country as no other local event can.

Certainly, agricultural produce and livestock define much of what the Fair is about. But, beyond this, the fair is also a centre for education, entertainment, commerce, and community socializing.

Visitors will be entertained by internationally renowned performers, can enjoy local food, and thrill to different rides and games on the midway. Vendors, manufacturers, and local organizations take advantage of the fair to inform the public about their goods and services.

But the major values of the Fair may be educational and social. Town people come to realize that behind the supermarket produce, there is a significant and essential agricultural sector. Urban people get to see and interact with real livestock and grown produce. Commercial vendors display new and essential products, not only for the farm but also for cottagers and homeowners. And, of course, the history of the region is retold and displayed. The educational value of the Fair is thus indirect and therefore most effective.

As the largest gathering in the Pontiac, the social importance of the Fair cannot be ignored. The gathering of so many people in a friendly, open environment encourages engagement with old friends and contact with new friends. The Shawville Fair is the best meet-and-greet place in western Quebec. The location, the variety of events, and the local appeal all produce a sense of community and togetherness that no other event can match. All of this is possible because the dedicated individuals of the Pontic Agricultural Society have devoted themselves to building on the past, caring for today and looking to the future. So let us all show our appreciation by going to the Fair!