The History of the Providence Bay Fair

Early Fair Photo 1900s
In 1884, the people of our community had a great interest to be able to show off their prize fancy work, home baking, workmanship and special livestock they had made or raised throughout the year. Here began the interest and formation of the Providence Bay Agricultural Fair.

EXHIBITS & SHOWMANSHIP

The early fairs were a one-day event in October with exhibits brought in the morning, judging conducted and the afternoon available for viewing. In 1922 it is noted that the date of the Fair was discussed at an Island meeting with the other Fairs then in existence (Kagawong, Gore Bay, Manitowaning and Sheguiandah) since they all took place during the same week. The fair changed to a 2 day event in the early 1900's and in 1968 the fair date was moved to a weekend in the later part of August. In 1983, the first three day exhibition was held.

Prize money in 1884 ranged from 50 cents to $2.00, for example 1st place Heavy Draft Horse Team at $2.00; Cattle $1.00, Ewe and lamb $1.00, Wooden Harrow $1.00, Barley $ .75; Potatoes $ .75, 1 doz Tomatoes $.50, Quilt $.75, Pair of Woolen Gloves $.50, 2 lb roll of butter $ .75, Loaf of Bread $.50. Today prize money ranges from $2.00 to $40.00. During the early years of the fair, there was not always enough funds to pay all prize money and a needed percentage would be retained by the Society. The total prize money awarded in 1884 was $51.25, and in 2007 it totaled $10,774.00.
Newspaper Article 1966


In 1937 it is noted that light cake, chocolate cake, doughnuts and pumpkin pie were added to the prize list and in 1948 apple and lemon pie were added being sugar was no longer rationed and cakes could be iced.

The agricultural classes in livestock and grains were very competitive in the early years. The youth were involved with the ‘Boys Club’ and then 4-H became a very important factor within the fair. In 1956 the 4-H Interclub competition for the Morrison Trophy for the best beef animal and showmanship began with the winner proceeding to the Ontario competition at the Royal Winter Fair in November. (See newspaper article from 1966 at left.)

School children were always a part of the early fairs with their exhibits from the local rural schools, however when this was discontinued, the directors felt the need to include the youth, who will be our future exhibitors. Consequently, in 1986 a Junior Section was added and has continued to grow. The recognition of Junior King and Queen is awarded each year to the child with the most points in the Junior Section.

From the very beginning the directors canvassed companies and businesses for additional prizes for Fair time. Today, being self sufficient, we still do have some specials, however canvassing has been discontinued.





ENTERTAINMENT

The early years of the fair were a gathering place for the community to present their baking, vegetables, fancy work, school projects etc. The livestock area presented strong competition for the local farmers and this was the only entertainment needed at that time. As time went on competitions were put in place. For example in 1935 - a special prize from the Manitoulin Recorder was “The lady who can harness her horse, hitch and ride around the track the quickest.”

In 1942, it is noted there was a Drawing Team Contest, Field Grain Competition, Sports, Spike Driving Contest, Log Sawing, and in 1944 a Log Sawing Contest was added for the Ladies.
Early Years of the Midway
Dances, box socials and plays were held between 1939 to 1948 in Providence Bay, Spring Bay and Mindemoya to aid in fair expenses. The admission for the dance in 1943 was 35 cents and lunch was 2 for 25 cents. In 1947 admission was 75 cents and included lunch.

Fair dances and Tug-of-war were added to the fair activities in 1947. The 1949 minutes shows, “Owing to the fact that horses are not so popular at fairs, it was decided to have a demonstration by tractors, anyone to compete, a wagon to be attached and back up between stakes.” In 1954, the tractor contest was discontinued.

In 1951 Bingo was added to the Fair and in 1959 through to the late 60's, the Hoopla Game, Darts, Fish Pond, Pony rides and the Mouse game (using live mice through a maze) were also activities at the Fair.

In 1956 Interclub 4-H competition was added which brought animal showmanship from all over the Island, and in 1957 the Junior Farmers became involved with the Fair.

The Midway made its debut in 1966 and revenue was recorded to be $24.25. The midway has continued to be a significant part of our Fair entertainment (pictured to the right).

Our first parade was held in Canada’s Centennial 1967, with Miss Dominion of Canada, Donna Parker attending our Fair. Seven floats, horse drawn buggies, bicycles and costumes were part of this first parade. The first place float was awarded to Mrs. Beatrice Young and daughter Margaret Cranston.

Music was provided on the fair grounds and for the dances by ‘The Mystics’, ‘Voyegeurs’, ‘Stan and the Valley Boys’ and other bands in the area. However, in 1968, Recording Artist, Earl Heywood became the first named entertainment to perform at the Fair - being well remembered for his song, “Moonlight on the Manitoulin Island”. Since that time we have had many famed entertainers for our Fair.

The Dairy Princess Competition began in 1969 through to 1975; and the Fair Queen or now Fair Ambassador began in 1972 which continues to be an important aspect of our Fair.

Horse Pull 1979




Horses became a very essential part of the Fair again in 1972 with our first Horse Show and in 1979 was the first Heavy Draft Horse Pull (pictured to the left), continuing to provide a significant entertainment unit to our schedule. The 1970's also brought in the Ball Tournament and Horseshoe Tournament as activities during the fair.






Farm Olympics
“Prairie Oyster” performed in 1989 and it was our first and last licenced dance. Dances returned to non-licenced to retain the family fair atmosphere.

The Farm Olympics Competition was an interesting part of the fair activities from 1985 to 1996 (pictured to the right). In 1994 the Antique Car Show was added to the fair’s agenda, along with Cow Patty Bingo, Turtle Races and a Variety Show & Air Band Competition in 1997. Cow Patty Bingo has since been discontinued, the turtle races have continued and the variety show was replaced by ‘Manitoulin Idol’ in 2002. After the completion of the track in 2002, Motocross Racing was added to the entertainment section.

Many changes in the entertainment scene have come about during the existence of the Providence Bay Fair.



PARADE

Shrine Band


The fair parade began in Canada’s Centennial Year of 1967 when Miss Dominion of Canada, Donna Parker visited our fair. The first parade band was the Levack-Onaping Pipe Band in 1970. The Shriner Band (pictured to the left) made its first appearance in 1971, Blue Saints in 1972, and from 1973 to 1984 was the Ian Baird Espanola Pipe Band. The Shriner Band was also on hand for the parade in 1984 and has been a regular participant to the present, with the Copper Cliff Pipe Band on hand in 2007. Special thank you to all the participants, it is you who makes the parade such an enjoyable and entertaining part of our Annual Fair.



DAIRY PRINCESS / FAIR QUEEN / FAIR AMBASSADOR COMPETITION

Dairy Princess Milking A Cow
In 1969, the Dairy Princess Competition became an important aspect of the Fair. The contestants, dressed in white attire were required to present a speech, along with an interview for knowledge of agriculture, and then proceed to milk a cow (pictured to the right). The very first year the contestants were Shirley Lentir, Anna Sloss and Jeananne McMillan, with Shirley taking the title. The following years from 1970 to 1975, the competition involved a representative from the districts of Manitoulin, Algoma and West Sudbury, where the girls competed at the fairs in Providence Bay, Massey and Bruce Mines. Manitoulin (Providence Bay) held the district title for 1970 - Beverley Legge and in 1971 - Patricia Wilson.

The first Fair Queen pageant in Providence Bay was in 1972 under the leadership of directors, Toots McDermid and Evelyn Legge. The Queen pageant required the girls to have an interview and present a speech. The fortunate young lady named for Miss Providence Bay Fair went on to compete at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto for “Miss Sweetheart of the Fairs” or presently the “Ambassador of the Fairs”. In 1997 the title was changed to Fair Ambassador to encourage both male and females to vie for this title.

PROPERTY & IMPROVEMENTS TO THE FAIR GROUNDS

Today’s fair is held on the original property initially owned by “The Township of Campbell and Providence Bay Agricultural Society”. The first exhibit hall was located approximately in the area between the midway and the ball diamond. In the minutes of late 1920's and through to the mid 40's many repairs and improvements were noted. For example in 1932, the fence was repaired on the east and north side of grounds, a ticket house was built beside the little gate and new pens were built for poultry. The following year the directors cleaned up the race track and trimmed up trees. Brushing and pulpwood was cut on the fair grounds in 1938 and they shingled the south side of the exhibit hall roof.

In September of 1939 a concern was presented “that something be done to keep down dust in the hall during fair days” and a motion was then made to get some sawdust for the floor. During the 1940's there was a collection from the fair members for window panes for the exhibit hall.
Construction of the Arena 1949
Discussion started in 1948 with the Providence Bay Community Rink Board related to building a new arena on Fair property. A bull dozer was hired to level the grounds. The Arena was built in 1949 (see picture at left) and the property deed was transferred to Carnarvon Township with the understanding that the property would be used for the agricultural fair as long as the society exists. The old exhibit hall was sold for $50.00 in 1950.

During the 1950's, to help with property and improvement expenses, the directors held variety concerts, dances, rummage sales, teas, bazaars and amateur nights, later starting weekly euchre parties. With the continuing growth of the fair exhibits, many tables and trusses were built along with several larger livestock pens, poultry pens and an enlarged show ring. Bingo tables were built in 1959. In 1954 it was noted that we hire a person to “sprinkle the rink”, then in 1971 a donation was provided to the township for cement. A platform and benches were also built in 1971.

In 1972, the directors purchased 14 acres of property for a race track and parking. During the 70's they continued to replace gates and fence, build more tables, benches and bleachers. Two ticket booths were built in 1977 and a horse ring.

Many financial contributions have been provided to the Arena Board during the years, for example, the addition of the new washrooms in 1978, upgrading of the wiring in 1980, structural engineering and repair in 1982 and the new change rooms and showers in 1994.
Exhibit Building
To commemorate our 100th Fair in 1984, a stone gateway entrance booth was built and a new chain link fence installed along the front of grounds, along with an expanded parking lot at the rear of the fair grounds.

During the late 80's, we continued to build more tables, upgraded the horse ring and built a new exhibit building in 1988 (pictured to the right).

The 1990's improvements included installing new light poles, purchasing 2.97 acres of land south of the arena, land clearing, fencing and building a new horse ring and cattle ring.

Clearing of land and building of the motocross track was completed and ready for use in 2002.

This is only a brief summary of the continual and dedicated work of the volunteer directors to bring about our Annual Providence Bay Agricultural Fair.

DIRECTORS

This Society has had a dedicated and worthy succession of volunteers serving as officers and directors. Many of our Directors have been honoured to receive a Service Diploma through the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies, which is a nomination by their peers. The dedication of our senior directors is also honoured with a Lifetime Membership.