Our History 210 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. Junior Farmers booth a new stage erected.
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. Announcers booth for cattle and horse rings.
1975: Installed 6,000 feet of plastic tile drain.
1982: Petting Zoo introduced. August 12th the first annual Great Raisin River Footrace was held. Annual meetings were moved to St. Mary’s Centre.
1984: Williamstown Bi-Centennial. All fair ribbons sported Canoe Logo.
1985: Sunday Highland Dance Competition started.
1987: January 1st the society because a Registered Charity and granted Tax Exemption Status. 1st Antique Car Show was held. Anniversary mugs were sold. 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.
1988: The Fair Queen contest was reinstated(last one held was in 1972) with Margo McDonell reigning.
1989: First corn roast. Fair Queen was Christina Rogers. Annual Meeting was moved to the fall as opposed to being held early in the new year.
1990: New Constitution was presented at the Annual Meeting with the new 30 Directors format. Souvenir plates were sold.
1991: Lumberjack demos was a new attraction
1992: Construction of Centre Stage designed by Jay Woollven. 1st Bingo hosted by Char Lan Rebels Hockey Club; two new tents erected(Craft and Agricultural Awareness).
1993: SD&G Highland Dancing Association held first competition at the fair. New wash racks for cattle. Farmer’s Market a popular attraction.
1994: Hosted the “Great Canadian Sign Affair Convention”. Many new signs were donated to the fair grounds. Tea Under The Pines very popular. Karaoke was held on Pine Stage and hot air balloon rides were held.
1995: Interior of Exhibit Hall was painted. Gate admission was dropped from $7 to $5. Photo contest initiated with the best photo taken at the fair would be on the cover of next year’s fair book. Talent Show was featured on Centre Stage.
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. 1st Hay Bale Decorating Contest. Nevada tickets were sold in partnership with the Char Lan Rebels ‘Jr B’ Hockey Club. This partnership lasted until September 2006 with the Fair Board netting $13,999.57.
1997: Beach Volleyball new attraction. OPP Shave-Off for Cancer began. Heat & humidity were unbearable. (OPP Shave-Off for Cancer) raised $7000. Standardized all buildings to “Navajo Red” stain. New attraction was Gymkhana.
1998: Industry Minister John Manley opened the fair. Ice Storm of ’98 remembered. First Ecumenical service was held. (Ice Storm of ’98 remembered) with essays, logos and song contests. 1st Kid’s Tractor Pull was held. Bingo returned hosted by Martintown Public School. Mural painting with David Stones was a popular attraction. 1st Amateur Talent Contest was held. Office went high tech with computerized tabulating of Home & Garden results. KRAFT held its first raffle with proceeds going to the Fair Board. Board ventured with the selling of souvenirs as a fundraiser.
1999: Lori Dupuis, 1998 Nagano Silver Medallist opened the fair. Cheryl Wightman becomes the first female president of the Society. 1st Scarecrow Competition was held. The lumberjack competiton returned and Belgian Horse drawn wagon rides were very popular. YoYo’s for Peace with Dane Dupuis was a major attraction. The Nor’Westers & Loyalist Museum showcased the first “Fairs From The Past” display.
2000: New garden displays by local horticultural groups. The fairs Millenium project was an ‘Old Fashioned Barn Raising’ of a 50′ x 100′ post & beam barn on July 1st. This building will be know as The Meeting Place. It will house liscenced dining and dance hall. Tug of war was re-instated after the missing MacGillivray Trophy was found in an attic on Loyalist Road. A Limerick Contest was held with Ruth Mowat at the winner.
2001: Society inducted into Glengarry Agriculture Hall of Fame. Designated “Canada’s Oldest Annual Fair”. CJOH News Director Max Keeping opened the fair. $1000 was offered as prize money for the Talent Show on the Pine Stage. How-To Demonstrations were showcased in the Craft Tent. The Great Raisin River Foot Race started and ended on the grounds.
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. $600 was offered as prize money for the Karaoke Funfest on the Pine Stage. New this year were: Blacksmith Shop; Kiddies Korner Train Set; Grampa’s Fantasy Land Model Train Display; Petting Zoo; Sheep Shearing and Wool Spinning; tethered Pilot Hot Air Balloon Rides.
2003: Max Keeping, CJOH News Director, opened the fair. New well drilled. 100th anniversary celebrations—Kraft. New this year was Highland Games Competitions for laides; Junior Teen Dance was introduced and Mad Science in the Sir John Johnson Building.
2004: Complete upgrade of ladies’ washroom. Website created. Gate admission increased to $7.00. New, revised constitution. Yellow Director Shirts made their debut. Major improvements to the Website. Smart Serve was implemented and an increased presence of OPP at the Meeting Place.
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. New this year was a ‘Kid’s Tent’. Antique Car displays were moved to the Cattle Ring on the Sunday. Hosted the OAAS District 1 Spring Annual Meeting.
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. The Monique MacDonell Memorial Trophy was initiated for the ‘top lady’ in the Ladies’ Highland Games Competition at the Fair. New this year was ‘Little Ray’s Reptiles’.
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. New this year was the Fraser Highlanders Regiment with demons and a Military Tattoo. Local newspapers and radio stations were recognized at the Annual Meeting for their on-going promotion of the fair.
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. New this year was the Roderick “Big Rory” McLennan Trophy. This is awarded to the ‘top man’ in the Highland Games Competition at the Fair. The Mason Ch.I.P Program was launchced during fair weekend. 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. The Fair Board was a member of the ‘Village Enhancement Committee’. This committee saw the erection of the 4 village entrance signs and the direction sign at the four corners in the village. First year for the Home Depot ‘Kid’s Building Tent’. Memorial Fund was established. The ‘Red Phone’ appeared on the grounds.
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. Oxen and wagon made their 1st appearance on the grounds.
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. Carol Anne Meaghan, CTV/CJOH Co-Anchor of the evening newscast officially opened the fair. Held a very popular Friday Night ‘Ceilidh’. BiCentennial Song winners were Brian and Elizabeth Caddell. New this year was the ‘Scarecrow in the Dell’.
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. Last year for the Great Raisin River Foot Race to start and end of the fairgrounds.
2014: Launched new website; new logo “A Bicentennial Fair’ was introduced; major improvements to Website; major grounds work and tile drainage with 200 loads of fill and fencing in the South Parking Lot; 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.
2017: Celebrated Canada’s 150th with the hanging of 10 Provincial and 3 Territorial flags at Centre Stage. Three permanent Memorial Benches were erected in memory of Ralph Gordon, Dr. Brian MacNaughton and Jay Woollven. New this year was a Teen Dance on Friday night. Four inches of rain fell on Friday night and by Saturday morning the Western Ring was a swimming pool. In the wee hours of the mourning with the combined efforts of many volunteers, directors, machinery and community partners the horse rings all started on time.
2018: Inflatable midway(Runamok Amusements) made its 1st appearance to the delight of youngsters and parents. Axe throwing proved popular. Another permanent Memorial Bench was erected in Memory of Garnet MacDougall.
2019: Welcomed new midway provider World’s Finest Shows with full midway service, games, and food concessions. Increased gate price to $20 all inclusive entry. Introduced smaller version of the Fair book, grounds map and program handed out at the gates and Bev Runions released The Williamstown Fair, A Continuing History of Canada’s Oldest Annual Fair.
2020: Fair was postponed because of COVID-19 pandemic and presented September 5th as a special free Drive-Thru edition which was well attended. Horse & Cattle shows were carried out on the fairgrounds with no spectators, Home & Garden classes were offered in a virtual format with a Local Super Heroes theme. The Fair’s website was overhauled adding online sales feature.