Our History 206 Years!
And the tradition continues……
From humble beginnings in the streets of Williamstown, recognized by Proclamation and Letters Patent by Francis Gore, Lieutenant Governor in 1808, to the present site in 1812, the Williamstown Fair continues to be the annual gathering place for thousands of area residents of our rural community, as well as many visitors from afar.
The Williamstown Fairgrounds, a beautiful site featuring majestic pine trees and beautiful heritage style buildings, set in the center of the historic Village of Williamstown, provides the ideal setting for “Canada’s Oldest Annual Fair”.
Having continually focused on exhibits, programs, competitions and entertainment representing the rural agricultural way of life, the St. Lawrence Valley Agricultural Society annually presents a Fair which has a reputation for being “a heritage fair with a family friendly atmosphere”.
The strength of the Fair has always been the dedication of the volunteer Board of Directors of the Society and the many volunteers, from the community, who assist with the event every year.
While agriculture has seen many changes over the years and life in general has become somewhat busier, the underlying strengths of the rural community can be readily witnessed at Fair time, in the displays, competitions and gatherings of families and friends, in this traditional setting.
With thanks to all who worked for more than 200 years to keep this great tradition alive,
….into our third century we go!
1853-1903: The fair was sponsored by the Glengarry Agricultural Society
1854: The Agricultural Societies of Charlottenburg and Lancaster united to form a Common Society
1855: The Membership fee was 5 shillings.
1875: An Annual report showed a profit of $99.32.
1878: The Financial Statement for the Glengarry Exhibition showed a revenue of $1,130.00.
1892: The Program included Caledonian Games and Lacrosse match and Pipe & Band Competition. Classes included: Throwing 56 lb weight, and throwing 12 lb hammer. There was a Scotch reel for gentlemen over 50 years of age, a swimming match starting at bridge and a Running Horse Race with a purse of $15.00
1899: Gate receipts amounted to about $380.00
1904: Township Agricultural Society was organized combining the Charlottenburgh and Lancaster Agricultural Society in a fair at Williamstown.
1907: The name of the new Society became St Lawrence Valley Agricultural Society, and it remains as such today. A new show hall was constructed at a cost of $275.00.
1908: The SLVAS supported legislation to bring forth more money in Government Grants. The Fair sponsored a marathon race featuring the famous Canadian long distance runner, Tom Longboat.
1912: Johnson Raymond of Williamstown was given the contract to ready the grounds at a cost of $47.50.
1913: Horse Barn was built costing $100.00.
1914: Because of the war, judges were not sent from the Department of Agriculture and the Government Grant was reduced by half. “No cars allowed on the race track”. Considering the date, parking was a problem even then. The fair was held on Tuesday and Wednesday because the CNR line could bring folks from Cornwall and Alexandria on that day and return them at night.
1915: The first covered skating rink in Williamstown was operated on the grounds in the old show hall. The cattle barns cost $475.00
1916: The Society offered the Government the use of the grounds and hall for the training of the troops.
1921: Gate prices were raised to $.35 for adults.
1924: A gentleman was paid $.25 per hour to arrange and repair the cattle and horse rings.
1925: Admission was raised to $.50.
1927: The Women’s Institute of Williamstown revamped the ladies prize list. Attendance was reported at 2000.
1928: The Board numbered all tickets and drew for a trip to Toronto to the Royal Winter fair.
1930: The first meals in the dining hall were served.
1933: The McArthur trophy was presented for the best Women’s Institute Display. Men were still in charge of the Ladies’ Division.
1935: Ladies were finally accepted on the Board. They were given charge of the Ladies Fancy Work and Cooking Classes. A new roof and floor was put in the exhibition hall at a cost of $375.00.
1937: A loudspeaker system, and a Hydro contract for lights in the Hall was procured.
1942: Cattle shows were set up in affiliation with the County Ayrshire and Holstein Clubs.
1945: Prime Minister Wm. Lyon MacKenzie King was the guest speaker at the Opening Ceremonies.
1946: The Department of Agriculture constructed a base and flagpole on the grounds in honour of over 100 years of the Williamstown Fair. Attendance was reported as 6000.
1953: A midway was installed as a feature attraction.
1954: The office was wired for lights. The Cheese Show was added as a Commercial feature.
1956: The midway failed to show up!
1958: A poultry and hay barn was erected and the old grandstand was dismantled.
1960: Plans were made to build a new dining facility.
1961: A Jersey Class was added to the Prize List. Honey was a new Commercial feature. Gates were put on the entrance to the grounds.
1962: 150th Anniversary. A well was drilled on the grounds
1963: The membership fee was increased to $2.00. A new septic tank and tile bed was installed.
1964: The Historical Sites Board unveiled a plaque commemorating “Ontario’s Oldest Fair”.
1965: Bleachers and a new poultry display area were constructed. The new Maple Leaf flag was raised on Fair Day. Doctor Charlotte Whitton, Mayor of Ottawa performed the opening ceremonies.
1966: Miss Dominion of Canada officiated. New washrooms were completed.
1967: “Centennial Year” – ladies appeared in costume.
1969: New well was drilled, horse and cattle rings were improved and a new display area for flowers and vegetables was made.
1970: Part of the grounds were tile drained.
1972: First female secretary/treasurer Ruth D. Mowat took over from Robert McDonell. Four cattle barns each 96’ X 16’ were erected.
1973: The English and Harness Division Horse show became a recognized show. A Pure Maple Products Class was added to the Prize List.
1974: Gate Admission was raised to $2.00 for adults and children under 12 were free.
1975: Installed 6,000 feet of plastic tile drain.
1978: Great Raisin River Footrace began.
1982: Petting Zoo introduced.
1984: Williamstown Bi-Centennial. All fair ribbons sported Canoe Logo.
1985: Sunday Highland Dance Competition started.
1987: Meeting Place (licensed establishment) was opened with proceeds going to a special building fund. Celebration of the 175th Anniversary of the Williamstown Fair – period costumes
1989: First corn roast.
1990: New Constitution was prepared.
1992: Construction of Centre Stage designed by Jay Woollven.
1993: SD&G Highland Dancing Association held first competition at the fair.
1994: Hosted the “Great Canadian Sign Affair Convention”. Many new signs were donated to the fair grounds. Admission decreased to $5.00.
1995: Interior of Exhibit Hall was painted.
1996: Agricultural Awareness Octagonal Building was erected and named the Sir John Johnson Building. The Ladies’ Division became known as the Home & Garden Division. Federal Agriculture Minister, Ralph Goodale opened the fair. Photo & Art Displays at Nor’Westers & Loyalist Museum.
1997: Beach Volleyball new attraction. OPP Shave-Off for Cancer began. Heat & humidity were unbearable. Hay bale decorating contest began
1998: Industry Minister John Manley opened the fair. Ice Storm of ’98 remembered. First Ecumenical service was held.
1999: Lori Dupuis, 1998 Nagano Silver Medallist opened the fair. Cheryl Wightman becomes the first female president of the Society.
2000: July 1st Old Fashioned Barn Raising of 50′ X 100′ post & beam barn to be meeting place/dining hall. New garden displays by local horticultural groups.
2001: Society inducted into Glengarry Agriculture Hall of Fame. Designated “Canada’s Oldest Annual Fair”. CJOH News Director Max Keeping opened the fair.
2002: “Richard Codrington, British Deputy High Commisioner opened the fair. Canada Post issued a Cancellation stamp in honour of “Canada’s Oldest Annual Fair”. A Queen’s Jubilee Award was presented to Clarence Robertson on behalf of the Fair.
2003: Max Keeping, CJOH News Director, opened the fair. New well drilled. 100th anniversary celebrations—Kraft.
2004: Complete upgrade of ladies’ washroom. Website created. Gate admission increased to $7.00. New, revised constitution.
2005: Loyalist weekend—Hosted Military ball. Complete upgrade men’s washroom. New Firemen’s booth. Year of the Veteran opening ceremonies. New horse ring. Pine stage tented.
2006: New Minor Hockey Booth, Western judges booth and major electrical upgrade. An Ontario Trillium Foundation grant of $60,000 to upgrade Centre Stage. Honoured ‘Big Rory McLennan’, Glengarry sports hero. South parking lot surveyed. Stone Gates were landscaped by Kirsty MacLeod & the Williamstown Green Thumbs. Williamstown Fair Board was awarded an ‘Excellence in Agriculture Award by the Township of South Glengarry.
2007: Hosted R.C.M.P. Musical Ride. Complete update and 100th anniversary of Exhibit Hall. Major electrical upgrade. First Volunteer Appreciation Night. Recognized all Past Presidents of the Home and Garden Division
2008: Tom Longboat 100th Anniversary run. New showcase for Maple Division. New office / annex attached to 101 year old Exhibit Hall. Stone gates refurbished. New stone flowerbed – gully. SEVEC students.
2009: Ontario Trillium Foundation grant of $60,000 to upgrade Centre Stage. Honoured “Big Rory McLennan” – Glengarry sports hero. South parking lot surveyed. Stone Gates – landscaped by Kirsty MacLeod & Williamstown Green Thumbs. Williamstown Fair Board awarded an “Excellence in Agriculture Award” by the Township of South Glengarry.
2010: New Centre Stage, Land clearing and tile draining.
2011: 200th Edition of the Williamstown Fair; hosted the International Cockshutt Summer Show; Royal Canadian Legion (Lancaster) erected 2 new flag poles at the Stone Gates on John Street; 1st Heritage Carriage Drive with Historical cutters & sleighs in the Meeting Place and a Farmer’s Market in the Sir John Johnson Building; new stone Main Gates on Warren Street; gate admission was raised to $10 daily and a $20 for a weekend pass; participated in the 1812 Reenactment weekend; new entrance off the Johnson Road. New shelving in exhibit hall. 18 Past Presidents of the Fair were recognized during Opening Ceremonies and at the Annual Banquet.
2012: BiCentennial Celebrations. Second Heritage Carriage Drive with antique agricultural machinery on display and a farmers market. Rare breeds tent. New sugar shanty. New horse judging booth for English ring. Heritage Homecoming Weekend featuring a heritage ball, heritage parade and family picnic with games.
2013: Great Raisin River Foot Race celebrated its 35th Anniversary. Glengarry County 4-H Association was recognized on centre stage to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of 4-H in Canada. Refurbished cattle barns; expanded Tug of War; upgraded north parking lot lighting; enlarged Harvest Market Garden; formed Memorial Committee; established Kirsty’s Garden in memory of Kirsty MacLeod.
2014: Launched new website; new logo “A Bicentennial Fair’ was introduced; completed upgrade of south parking lot with 200 loads of fill; major reforestation project with 70+trees planted; clean up of Peanut Line.
2015: New features were the Extreme Cowboy Race and Farmers Olympics. The South Glengarry Volunteer Firemen acted as 1st Responders. Celebrated 150th Anniversary of the Canadian Flag and the 75th Anniversary of the Glengarry Holstein Club.
2016: Official opening and reception of Heritage Hall (former annex). Constructed a new dancers’ change booth, updated fencing along south/east corner of grounds (John & Bethune Street), and modernized electrical system in the south parking lot. Purchased a second ‘Courtesy Vehicle’ for transporting fairgoers. Highlighted the S.D.&G. Highlanders at the Official opening.