Fall fair a fantastic show

With sunshine and summer-like heat for the Lakes District Fall Fair this past weekend, the event had the feel of a mini summer rodeo.

With sunshine and summer-like heat for the Lakes District Fall Fair and Music Festival this past weekend, the event had the feel of a mini summer rodeo.

Any first-time fall fair participants couldn’t help but be blown away by the scale of the show. It was really four different events happening in one place, any one of which would have been enough to justify spending the weekend at Eagle Creek.

The continuous stream of festival musicians on the main stage, the western-style events in the main arena, the livestock shows and auction, and the gymkhana events at the lower Tweedsmuir Saddle Club arena, meant that visitors needed to pay attention to the schedule of events if they wanted to get the best of everything. You couldn’t see it all. If you caught one event it meant you were missing something else, but that’s the price of abundance. It was a mini Calgary Stampede, larger than the sum of its individual parts.

Several events stand out in my memory. Watching handlers and animals perform together as a team is always impressive. Horses and riders, working-dogs and their handlers, the heavy-horse teams and their awesome displays of power, all leave vivid images behind.

The weekend wasn’t just about watching though, it invited a lot of participation.

The United Way inaugural Burns Lake fire truck pull was a huge crowd pleaser. As expected, strength in numbers and a coordinated effort proved the winning team, but all five teams made it across the finish line without any real problems.

Seeing the less burly teams pull the fire engine across the finish line within a five or six second margin of the winning team should encourage more teams to enter next year.

Two mechanical bulls (one for teens and adults, the other for kids) had constant line-ups every day. The logger sports events had many locals come out to try their hand at things they probably don’t do every day, like throwing axes.

As you’d expect, the bull-riding was won by a cowboy and the top performers in the logger sports looked like well-acquainted with hard work, but that didn’t stop greenhorns from stepping up for a shot.

Maybe this is what rodeo events at larger centres felt like before they became pure spectacle and visitor participation was all but eliminated.

You could walk up to any competitor and strike up a conversation they seemed glad to be part of. A city person could get tips on how to spot a strong contender in the heavy horse pull, or could talk to a rider about what it takes to blast around barrels in a horse race.

There’s not so much of that at a bigger event. In Burns Lake, the performers and the crowd often traded places. You’d be talking to the person beside you at an event only to have him or her rush off to get on stage or make it to their own show or event.

This unique weekend, supported and made possible by many volunteers, local sponsors, and vendors, was unlike any other fair or rodeo I’ve been to.

It was the spirit of the Northwest over three days of shows, competition, and meeting new friends. You’d have to look hard to find another event like this, or else just wait for next year.