132 Years ago
Today marks 132 years since Vernon hosted its first fall fair, an event which was organized by the Okanagan and Spallumcheen Agricultural Society and described as “a thorough success.”
On October 15, 1891, locals and visitors alike poured into the City to take in the bounty of the season. Surprisingly, the exact building in which the fair was hosted is unknown, but it was described as “prettily decorated with corn, hops and evergreens, the whole forming a pleasing effect, while great taste was displayed in arranging the exhibits in the most attractive manner.”
A variety of exhibits
On entering the building, the first display that caught the eye was that of the Columbia Flouring Mill from Enderby. This display consisted of sacks of their three well-known flour brands and small bottles containing samples of fall and spring wheat grown in the district. Beyond this was an exhibit of stoves and hardware by William Joseph Armstrong.
Two more mercantile exhibits followed, a harness and saddlery collection by W. R. Megaw, and a furniture display by J. C. Campbell. A “wonderful display” of produce featured cabbages and beets, grain, fruit and other vegetables, and, according to the Vernon News, “a more magnificent display has not been shown in the Province.” The samples of grain were described as particularly “astonishing and delightful” for even the most critical of onlookers.
There were also a variety of judged livestock displays; J. T. Steele dominated the Durham division, while Forbes Vernon took the top spots in the Hereford division. Meanwhile, Price Ellison received first prize for “best stallion.” Judges also viewed sheep, chickens, and cows, as well as awarded prizes for “best bush potatoes,” “best 5lbs of butter” and “best sample of two bread loaves.”
Guests came as far away as the coast to visit the fair, thanks to the arrival of the first passenger train in Vernon, which coincided with the event and marked the near-completion of the S & O Railway. Many of the region’s most-well known settlers were also in attendance, including the Lord and Lady Aberdeen, Moses Lumby, E. J. Tronson, and Luc Girouard.
For some time, the Okanagan and Spallumcheen Agricultural Society fair was considered the largest exhibition of its kind in the B.C. Interior, a title which was later surrendered to Armstrong’s Interior Provincial Exhibition. Vernon continued to host agricultural fairs into the 1960s, with a particularly popular one at the Civic Arena in 1964, and featuring horse demonstrations, flower shows, and other agricultural exhibits.
Eventually, as the popularity of the IPE continued to grow, Vernon exhibitors and fairgoers decided to journey a little ways north to take in this bigger event, and the city stop hosting its own fall fair.
To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!
Gwyneth Evans, Head of Archives