Canada’s Oldest Fair

History buffs, this one is for you!

On the 21st day of May, 1765, the first agricultural fair in North America was born. The English, surviving French settlers, the native Mik’maqs, and merchants from Halifax, the port city just forty miles away, gathered to create a market and enjoy games on Fort Hill, home of a fortress erected by the King in what is now Windsor, Nova Scotia.

The first fair had a considerable show of cattle, sheep, horses and hogs, good samples of grain of all sorts, butter, cheese and homespun cloth. Prizes were given to encourage industry and agriculture. Forty horses fit for saddle and draught were offered for sale. An oval track was soon built and became the scene of many horse races, with heavy betting. By 1771 the gambling had grown so extensive the governor banned racing at the Fair.

The fair was held regularly for a considerable time. However, the powers-that-be decided that the county was not sufficiently populous to be benefitted by it, and that it only served as an excuse for a day of idleness and intoxication, so it was thought most prudent to discontinue it.

In 1815, the year of the Battle of Waterloo, a Royal charter again granted the holding of an annual exhibition at Fort Hill. In 1839, the Hants (later the Windsor) Agricultural Society was formed and organized it until 1894. Much progress in farming and animal husbandry was made during these years and the area around Windsor became known as the bread basket for Halifax.

The exhibition offered competitions similar to those still standard today, but the Society was also forward thinking and imported the first straw cutter from America in 1841 to auction off at the fair. Likewise, they imported the first threshing machine in 1845 to be used by local farmers. In the 1890s, cruise ships from New York arrived at the Windsor wharf so passengers could attend, sailing home again the next day at high tide.

The 200th anniversary in 1965 celebrated all the successes to that time. In just three short years, it will be the 250th, with all the pomp and ceremony the town of Windsor (population 4,000) can apply. They will have lots of help. More than 250,000 people attend events at the fairground each year, and because the fairground is home to so many tourist, recreational and agricultural activities during the year, all these participants will be included, meaning a year-round event, not just a week.

So mark your diaries and make sure you check out the events of 2015 as the time approaches. In the meantime, visit the Hants County Exhibition this year, on the weekends of September 14th to 16th, and September 21st to 23rd and get a taste of what is to come! Count on it being something extraordinary!

Find the Hants County Exhibition at http://www.hantscountyex.com.

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