Agricultural fairs, many of which occur in September and October, are an important part of rural Ontario life. While big exhibitions – like Toronto’s CNE – may be more famous, smaller area fairs mean just as much to their communities.
Northumberland County’s main fair is at Roseneath, held the last weekend of September or first weekend in October. 2019 marked the 151st Roseneath Fair, but COVID has postponed the 152nd until 2022.
As a boy, I eagerly looked forward to “The Fair”. There were beautifully-groomed horses on show and draft teams competing to pull the biggest loads, as well as various breeds of cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry on display for judging. Rodeo events were a popular draw – my cousin was a barrel-racer so we always cheered him on. There were art and creative writing contests for schoolchildren. Prizes were given for the best and biggest produce categories, and also for baked goods and preserves. For anyone with a sweet tooth (long lines indicated I was not alone), there was the pulled taffy booth where you could watch the proprietor throw a thick loop of taffy over a hook and repeatedly pull it out several feet; for a dime you could buy a dozen waxed paper-wrapped taffy sticks – which lasted at least until we got home, or maybe a bit longer.
The main reason for children to attend The Fair, however, was to ride the merry-go-round. This is a 1906 C.W. Parker carousel, built in Abilene, Kansas. It was bought by the Roseneath Agricultural Society in 1932 and later fitted with a Wurlitzer Military Band Organ. During my childhood this ride only ran on fair days, but since has been restored (and renamed “The Roseneath Carousel”) and now regularly operates each summer. The carousel has special meaning for my family because my blacksmith grandfather used to shoe the painted basswood horses while his little daughter, my mother, watched from one of the boats.
Whether you go for the animals, competitions, events, food, to socialize, or to ride the Carousel, do attend the Roseneath Fair and make some fun memories. See you there!
By: Don Willcock,
The Peterborough Museum & Archives, 300 Hunter St E, Peterborough, 705-743-5180