Hay River’s annual Fall Fair – a tradition dating back to 1977 – has fallen on hard times, but the current organizing committee is dedicated to bringing it back to its former self.
“We’re asking people, do you want your Fall Fair to be pitiful or powerful?” said organizer Linda Carter. “We need people, exhibitors, vendors, volunteers – everyone – to get involved.”
The tradition marks the end of the summer season and was a forum for the community to get together to display crafts, produce, and all manner of edible treats.
Organizer Evellyn Coleman said the fair was originally started by a group of women as a tradeshow to showcase local talent.
“It evolved through the years to something quite a bit smaller than the original,” she said, explaining that, while the Hay River Chamber of Commerce has been extremely supportive of the fair, the chamber’s own tradeshow has grown dominant over the decades.
“The tradeshow became an entity on its own and the Fall Fair became a bit of a poor cousin,” Coleman said.
“We have a great partnership with the chamber and the tradeshow,” she added. “We can really help each other and the real winner will always be Hay River.”
The Chamber of Commerce’s Business, Home and Leisure Show will take place Sept. 6 & 7, while the Fall Fair is set for Sept. 7 & 8.
The current organizing committee has plans to bring the fair back to its former prominence.
Shirley King, another organizer, said the group has been working for almost a decade to revitalize the tradition, make it more relevant to the community, and attract vendors and exhibitors.
“There is a group that wants to see it grow again,” she said. “It’s important for the town to have something to call their own, and it was our kids – who are now grown up – who were in the contests when they were little.”
The fair normally boasts between 21 and 27 tables, according to Carter, and tries to cater to those vendors who don’t operate a business. While market gardeners are discouraged from competing against hobby gardeners at the fair, the organizers said people who sell their produce on a regular basis are welcome to present their wares for display only.
Part of the plan for this year’s event is to showcase the history of the fair itself, including displaying photos and biographies of some of the fair’s founders.
“We’re working with Brad Mapes to set up a Memory Wall feature somehow,” said Carter. “We really want to create a sense of history for the fair and remind people of what it meant to the community.”
Some of the most popular attractions and events include a pie booth to be put on by the churches in town, a baby show, and a wacky vegetable contest. The organizers said they would welcome anyone with a talent to show off, joking that even burnt baking entries would be accepted.
“Seriously, we’re happy to have everyone,” said King. “This is for the whole community and we want to be sure everyone has a chance to participate, if they want to.”
— Sarah Ladik