Us and our Fair

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

You might wonder how anyone could dislike or even ignore the Shawville Fair each year, but some do. With absolutely no surveying about the Fair, I feel confident enough to say most of these people are taking it for granted in their indifference.

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

You might wonder how anyone could dislike or even ignore the Shawville Fair each year, but some do. With absolutely no surveying about the Fair, I feel confident enough to say most of these people are taking it for granted in their indifference.
There are people who dislike crowds, noise, dust, and noisy kids. We understand, of course, anyone with health problems triggered by big, outdoor events. There are those families that find the cost prohibitive – and they are other realistic, although sad, reasons for staying away. 
But there’s the group that feels the Fair is just another noisy event and who see it as though it’s limited to a celebration of country music or as a big beer fest. Too bad. They are taking this event for granted, and, at the bottom, probably because they’ve seen too many fairs growing up here or they’ve tired of so much talk of the Fair if they live in a farming family.
The Fair is all these things, and has a few negatives, but this is an event to which most Canadians have no access at all. Think of the poor souls living in Toronto or Montreal, and even with those cities’ expositions and winter fairs, these denizens are stuck in their urban entanglements; they have no access to anything like the Fair. Most Canadians seem in that situation, self-inflicted or not.
Not us, not here, not within an hour’s drive of the fairgrounds. We realize this is a big event, even if it is annual, and that it is a genuine slice of Canadian history which fairgoers and participants are sharing and preserving. The Shawville Fair has regional accreditation; it is more than local. It has become one of the greatest fall fairs in Eastern Canada.
And this big event, this slice of life and of history, is created in our back yard every year by local people, by our neighbours. That’s one reason to feel  pride! Pontiac people are quite capable of this accomplishment. There’s no “poor us” attitudes at the Fair Board.
The Shawville Fair is one of those few events in our lives that is iconic because it captures and is rooted in both the Pontiac’s past and our modern rural life. Beyond the reach of most Canadians, it is, probably, even beyond their comprehension, given their lives amid miles of asphalt and the sameness of suburbs. Where could they find such an embodiment of the values of their past, the values which grow from fulfilling their own social and community needs (as farming does)?
These we shouldn’t take for granted, especially if we have any understanding of our past and our economy and of the uniqueness of the Pontiac. We each can walk the fairgrounds, view the exhibits and shows, play the games, and soak up
a little of what makes our lives special – and valuable.
The Shawville Fair is also an indication – a promise – of what a wider type of tourism could bring to the entire Pontiac. Not that we could duplicate something to attract 20,000 to 40,000 people, but since these numbers do come to the Fair, this tells us our Pontiac has a significant audience from which to attract tourists – from whitewater rafting, the art studio tours and hunting and fishing. The Fair shows us that Pontiac could attract 40,000 people over the year, and what a boom that would be to our economy.
Tourism experts no doubt study the Fair to see what it is that attracts so many, and well they should – one more reason to tour the big event and soak up our Pontiac life.