These junior exhibitors are being judged for their handling abilities
Markham Fair is one of Canada's oldest country fairs, an annual event established in 1844 and hosted by the Markham, Ontario and East York agricultural society. With over 700 volunteers working on more than 70 committees, Markham Fair is the largest community based volunteer organization in Canada.
The Fair occurs annually on the weekend before Canadian Thanksgiving, and hosts upwards of 80,000 attendees. Approximately 3,000 exhibitors enter more than 12,000 items, which are judged and put on display during the fair. Promoting excellence through competition in this way makes fairs unique in comparison to other events.
Originally, agricultural societies would meet on a regular basis to discuss various concepts of agricultural improvement such as livestock development and increased grain yields. Often the society would collectively purchase a bull or seed grain, which would be made available to members only. The fall fair would then be an opportunity for the farmers to compete by showing off the fruits of their labour. Due to increased technology and rapid communication, agricultural societies no longer find it necessary to provide this service, but the Markham Fair continues to create the forum known as the fall fair, providing the community with a showcase for talents and products in a friendly competitive spirit.
As well as the competitive displays, the community is further brought together to enjoy various forms of entertainment such as horse pull, demolition derby, tractor pull, midway rides and displays of farm animals.
The fairgrounds are located in northern Markham at McCowan Road and Elgin Mills Road and sits of 104 acres of land. The site has several buildings used to house trade shows and other events. A 1/2 mile track and stables are used to store animals.
The original fairground was located at the present day Markham Village Library at southeast corner of Markham Road and Highway 7. The fair moved to the current site in 1977, as the original fairground area grew less agricultural. The current library building was built to mimic the shape of the old Agricultural Hall that once stood at the site. A fire in 1916 burned down the new hall, ice rink and other buildings.
Many shows and events are showcased throughout the duration of the fair. In previous years these shows have included:
- Wild Animal Encounter
- Agri-food Tent Shows (Cooking shows)
- Gymnastics demonstration
- Freestyle Moto-Cross (FMX) Bike Demonstration
- Parade – A Cavalcade of Horses
- Sheep Shearing Demonstration
Besides the fall fair a number of local events use the fairgrounds:
- Markham Home Shows - Fall and Spring
- Markham Rotary Ribfest - one of a few GTA sites for the travelling ribfests in Canada and the United States
- Toronto Military Show
The earliest recorded Fair held in Markham was in 1857 at the fairgrounds then located on the South East corner of the junction of Highways 7 and 48.
In 1977 the Fair relocated to its current site where the four day fair is held annually on the weekend preceding Canadian Thanksgiving.
Board of Directors
The Society, the Ontario Corporation, that owns and operations the owns and operates the fair and its properties, is governed by a Board of 24 Directors, whom are elected at each annual meeting for a three-year period, and six junior directors (between the ages of 18-26) whom are elected annually for a one year period. All directors are elected by members of the Society who attend the annual meeting. From among the directors, the President (Chair) and two vice-presidents are elected following the annual meeting, along with a Treasurer, General Manager, and Secretary.
The Mission of the Society is to encourage an awareness of agriculture and to promote improvements in the quality of life of persons living in an agricultural community by:
- researching and developing programs to meet the needs of the community;
- holding annual agricultural exhibitions featuring competitions for which prizes may be awarded;
- promoting the conservation of natural resources;
- encouraging the beautification of the community; and by
- supporting and providing facilities to encourage activities to enrich the community
In addition, there are over 750 volunteers involved with the operations, which fill the board seats and form some 75 committees, which share administrative duties and the Fair operating procedures.
Other Canadian annual fairs
- Canadian National Exhibition - Toronto
- Calgary Stampede - Calgary
- Edmonton K-Days - Edmonton
- Pacific National Exhibition - Vancouver
- Central Canada Exhibition - Ottawa
- Canadian Lakehead Exhibition - Thunder Bay
- Red River Exhibition - Winnipeg
- Royal Agricultural Winter Fair - Toronto
- Royal Manitoba Winter Fair - Brandon, Manitoba
- Schomberg Fair - Schomberg, Ontario
- Sooke Fall Fair - Sooke, British Columbia
- Streetsville Bread and Honey Festival - Mississauga
- Western Fair - London, Ontario
- For a fuller history, Cf. Isabel Champion, ed., Markham: 1793-1900 (Markham, ON: Markham Historical Society, 1979), pp. 266-270; also Myra Chepack, "Markham Fair President 1910: James McCreight Armstrong," Markham Fair official website.