There are a few changes in store for this year’s Alberni District Fall Fair, but one thing that won’t change is the fun people will have there, organizer Ann Siddall said.
Employees garbed in yellow hard hats and orange safety vests were busy unpacking and setting up midway rides on Wednesday morning.
The fair runs from Thursday evening, Sept. 8 to Sunday, Sept. 11.
Ann Siddall, who has been the fair administrator for 10 years, took a break from a busy registration night to reflect on fairs both past and present.
There are some minor changes slated for this fair, Siddall said.
Entertainment has been moved to the logger sports bowl, where a new stage has been built where performances will take place.
There will be more outdoor vendors available for fair goers.
And an exhibition hockey game will be staged on Saturday involving the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. The $10 fee to watch the game also doubles as entrance into the fair.
Despite the changes, the fair’s core events —midway, logger sports, livestock and domestic art shows— remain as popular as they’ve always been, Siddall said.
The fair remains a community event, for community members run by community members.
Siddall has been the fair manager for 10 years and before that was involved through the 4-H club.
The position was part time when she started but as the fair grew so too did the demands on her time.
“Before, you could come in for three months out of the year but now you have fundraising and partnerships and you have to be involved full time,” Siddall said.
The fair has seen some changes over the last two decades.
The area was gravel when Siddall started making the fair grounds—“a big dust bowl,” she said.
And agriculture, once a cornerstone of the fair, has slowly become less prominent than it once was, though there is still an offering.
Last year’s gate topped out at under 20,000 people, which was down from the previous year’s 21,500. “We should get up to 21,000 again if all goes well,” Siddall said.
Fair volunteer Carol Cutforth started with the fair as a work party helper 27 years ago at age 12.
“My parents were Kinsmen and involved with the fair so my sisters, brother and I were—it’s just what we did,” Cutforth said.
“My first job was building the chicken cages.”
Cutforth’s children —Braiden, 13, and Emily, 10—are involved with the fair now.
“My son loves it and his commitment is my inspiration now,” Carol said. “I love to see the fair shine in their eyes.”
Cutforth didn’t just grow up with the fair; she grew up with other volunteers too. “I have a fair mom, a fair dad and fair brothers and sisters. It’s like a family to me.”
The memories of fairs past are too numerous to mention but one thing stands out every year that Cutforth has been involved.
“There’s nothing better to me that 5 p.m. on Thursday when the gate opens for the first time and the crowds come in. That’s why I do this.”