Fall fairs turn to livestreaming — but that won’t pay the bills

News Sep 19, 2020 by Kate McCullough Hamilton Spectator

A typical Saturday at the Binbrook Fall Fair miniature horses, a 4-H dairy show, axe throwing and a ferris wheel ride before sitting down for a roast beef dinner.

But this year’s fair will look a little different.

Fairgoers — or “fairviewers” — can still get their farm animal fill, though virtually through social media.

“It’s always been an important social event for our community,” said Melinda Ramsay, co-owner of Lickey Spit Fibre Farm in Binbrook. “I had proposed doing a virtual component of some kind.”

More than 200 fall fairs across Ontario — including Binbrook’s — have been cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 40 per cent of them are doing some kind of virtual event.

On Friday, Ramsay livestreamed sheep shearing and chick hatching at her Binbrook farm on Facebook.

“Part of the struggle with that for any organization is, of course, to make it successful you need to have followers,” she said, noting she spent the summer trying to grow the fair’s social media following.

But, she said, those who aren’t on social media will miss out this year all together.

“There is the older part of our community, which is a lot of the farming roots, families that have lived here for decades, if not generations,” said Ramsay, who sits on the Binbrook Agricultural Society (BAS) board. “And those people have been the backbone of the organization in terms of volunteering, judging, setting up, cleaning up, manning booths.”

After months of deliberation, the Binbrook Agricultural Society (BAS) announced June 26 it would be cancelling the Binbrook Fall Fair, an annual tradition of more than 165 years, scheduled for Sept. 18 to 20.

“It finally became evident that there was no hope for September, and at that point we pulled the plug,” said BAS president Andrew Bienhaus, noting that they’re already looking ahead to 2021. “A lot of people will miss it.”

Bienhaus estimates about 25,000 people visit the Binbrook Fall Fair in a typical weekend. The fair also serves as a point of connection for the community — especially 365-day-a-year farmers who may not get together otherwise.

“It’s part of the fabric of the community,” he said.

The Binbrook Farmers’ Market, which typically runs from June to October, was also cancelled for the year.

Along with livestream sheep shearing, Lickety Spit farm is hosting a virtual Kool-Aid wool-dying event, among others. The agricultural society is also supporting local farmers — and educating urbanites — by promoting people in the farming community like six-year-old Brynn Roberts, who does regular animal care Instagram lessons that are shared to the fair’s Facebook page.

In Hamilton, the 170th edition of the Ancaster Fall Fair, typically scheduled for Sept. 24 to 27, was cancelled for 2020. The Rockton Fall Fair, held annually over Thanksgiving weekend, has also been cancelled for the first time in 168 years.

“This is the only real time where families and people come together to see where their food comes from, how it’s produced, how it gets there,” said Vince Brennan, manager of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OAAS). “This is something we really don’t want lost.”

Brennan said though fall fairs are economically and socially central to rural life, the agricultural societies that run them are a year-round operation — most of which has been shut down entirely due to COVID-19.

“Our agricultural societies are really the heart of many of our rural communities across this country,” he said. “That’s the hub where a lot of those social events take place, whether it’s the weddings, the celebrations, whatever it might be, it takes place at our fairgrounds.”

On Aug. 20, the province announced it was expanding funding eligibility so that all agricultural societies — not just those holding fall fairs — could apply for government grants. A total of $1 million has been committed to helping Ontario’s agricultural sector offset the pandemic-induced losses.

“Our agricultural and horticultural organizations are part of the backbone of rural Ontario,” said Agricultural Affairs Minister Ernie Hardeman. “We are providing this funding to help continue operations and relieve some of the burden they are experiencing during this difficult time.”

Brennan said though $1 million in funding sounds substantial, when stretched across hundreds of agricultural societies, it’s insignificant compared to the losses.

The OAAS predicts the overall loss of income for agricultural societies would be “considerably more” than last year’s ticket sales, which were more than $24 million.

“These agriculture societies do track a wide range of revenue for our communities, and that just isn’t happening this year,” Brennan said. “I’d hate to see that disappear.”

Kate McCullough is a Hamilton-based reporter at The Spectator. Reach her via email: kmccullough@thespec.com

Fall fairs turn to livestreaming — but that won’t pay the bills

More than 200 fairs across Ontario — including in Ancaster, Binbrook and Rockton — were cancelled this year

News Sep 19, 2020 by Kate McCullough Hamilton Spectator

A typical Saturday at the Binbrook Fall Fair miniature horses, a 4-H dairy show, axe throwing and a ferris wheel ride before sitting down for a roast beef dinner.

But this year’s fair will look a little different.

Fairgoers — or “fairviewers” — can still get their farm animal fill, though virtually through social media.

“It’s always been an important social event for our community,” said Melinda Ramsay, co-owner of Lickey Spit Fibre Farm in Binbrook. “I had proposed doing a virtual component of some kind.”

More than 200 fall fairs across Ontario — including Binbrook’s — have been cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 40 per cent of them are doing some kind of virtual event.

On Friday, Ramsay livestreamed sheep shearing and chick hatching at her Binbrook farm on Facebook.

“Part of the struggle with that for any organization is, of course, to make it successful you need to have followers,” she said, noting she spent the summer trying to grow the fair’s social media following.

But, she said, those who aren’t on social media will miss out this year all together.

“There is the older part of our community, which is a lot of the farming roots, families that have lived here for decades, if not generations,” said Ramsay, who sits on the Binbrook Agricultural Society (BAS) board. “And those people have been the backbone of the organization in terms of volunteering, judging, setting up, cleaning up, manning booths.”

After months of deliberation, the Binbrook Agricultural Society (BAS) announced June 26 it would be cancelling the Binbrook Fall Fair, an annual tradition of more than 165 years, scheduled for Sept. 18 to 20.

“It finally became evident that there was no hope for September, and at that point we pulled the plug,” said BAS president Andrew Bienhaus, noting that they’re already looking ahead to 2021. “A lot of people will miss it.”

Bienhaus estimates about 25,000 people visit the Binbrook Fall Fair in a typical weekend. The fair also serves as a point of connection for the community — especially 365-day-a-year farmers who may not get together otherwise.

“It’s part of the fabric of the community,” he said.

The Binbrook Farmers’ Market, which typically runs from June to October, was also cancelled for the year.

Along with livestream sheep shearing, Lickety Spit farm is hosting a virtual Kool-Aid wool-dying event, among others. The agricultural society is also supporting local farmers — and educating urbanites — by promoting people in the farming community like six-year-old Brynn Roberts, who does regular animal care Instagram lessons that are shared to the fair’s Facebook page.

In Hamilton, the 170th edition of the Ancaster Fall Fair, typically scheduled for Sept. 24 to 27, was cancelled for 2020. The Rockton Fall Fair, held annually over Thanksgiving weekend, has also been cancelled for the first time in 168 years.

“This is the only real time where families and people come together to see where their food comes from, how it’s produced, how it gets there,” said Vince Brennan, manager of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OAAS). “This is something we really don’t want lost.”

Brennan said though fall fairs are economically and socially central to rural life, the agricultural societies that run them are a year-round operation — most of which has been shut down entirely due to COVID-19.

“Our agricultural societies are really the heart of many of our rural communities across this country,” he said. “That’s the hub where a lot of those social events take place, whether it’s the weddings, the celebrations, whatever it might be, it takes place at our fairgrounds.”

On Aug. 20, the province announced it was expanding funding eligibility so that all agricultural societies — not just those holding fall fairs — could apply for government grants. A total of $1 million has been committed to helping Ontario’s agricultural sector offset the pandemic-induced losses.

“Our agricultural and horticultural organizations are part of the backbone of rural Ontario,” said Agricultural Affairs Minister Ernie Hardeman. “We are providing this funding to help continue operations and relieve some of the burden they are experiencing during this difficult time.”

Brennan said though $1 million in funding sounds substantial, when stretched across hundreds of agricultural societies, it’s insignificant compared to the losses.

The OAAS predicts the overall loss of income for agricultural societies would be “considerably more” than last year’s ticket sales, which were more than $24 million.

“These agriculture societies do track a wide range of revenue for our communities, and that just isn’t happening this year,” Brennan said. “I’d hate to see that disappear.”

Kate McCullough is a Hamilton-based reporter at The Spectator. Reach her via email: kmccullough@thespec.com

Fall fairs turn to livestreaming — but that won’t pay the bills

More than 200 fairs across Ontario — including in Ancaster, Binbrook and Rockton — were cancelled this year

News Sep 19, 2020 by Kate McCullough Hamilton Spectator

A typical Saturday at the Binbrook Fall Fair miniature horses, a 4-H dairy show, axe throwing and a ferris wheel ride before sitting down for a roast beef dinner.

But this year’s fair will look a little different.

Fairgoers — or “fairviewers” — can still get their farm animal fill, though virtually through social media.

“It’s always been an important social event for our community,” said Melinda Ramsay, co-owner of Lickey Spit Fibre Farm in Binbrook. “I had proposed doing a virtual component of some kind.”

More than 200 fall fairs across Ontario — including Binbrook’s — have been cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 40 per cent of them are doing some kind of virtual event.

On Friday, Ramsay livestreamed sheep shearing and chick hatching at her Binbrook farm on Facebook.

“Part of the struggle with that for any organization is, of course, to make it successful you need to have followers,” she said, noting she spent the summer trying to grow the fair’s social media following.

But, she said, those who aren’t on social media will miss out this year all together.

“There is the older part of our community, which is a lot of the farming roots, families that have lived here for decades, if not generations,” said Ramsay, who sits on the Binbrook Agricultural Society (BAS) board. “And those people have been the backbone of the organization in terms of volunteering, judging, setting up, cleaning up, manning booths.”

After months of deliberation, the Binbrook Agricultural Society (BAS) announced June 26 it would be cancelling the Binbrook Fall Fair, an annual tradition of more than 165 years, scheduled for Sept. 18 to 20.

“It finally became evident that there was no hope for September, and at that point we pulled the plug,” said BAS president Andrew Bienhaus, noting that they’re already looking ahead to 2021. “A lot of people will miss it.”

Bienhaus estimates about 25,000 people visit the Binbrook Fall Fair in a typical weekend. The fair also serves as a point of connection for the community — especially 365-day-a-year farmers who may not get together otherwise.

“It’s part of the fabric of the community,” he said.

The Binbrook Farmers’ Market, which typically runs from June to October, was also cancelled for the year.

Along with livestream sheep shearing, Lickety Spit farm is hosting a virtual Kool-Aid wool-dying event, among others. The agricultural society is also supporting local farmers — and educating urbanites — by promoting people in the farming community like six-year-old Brynn Roberts, who does regular animal care Instagram lessons that are shared to the fair’s Facebook page.

In Hamilton, the 170th edition of the Ancaster Fall Fair, typically scheduled for Sept. 24 to 27, was cancelled for 2020. The Rockton Fall Fair, held annually over Thanksgiving weekend, has also been cancelled for the first time in 168 years.

“This is the only real time where families and people come together to see where their food comes from, how it’s produced, how it gets there,” said Vince Brennan, manager of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OAAS). “This is something we really don’t want lost.”

Brennan said though fall fairs are economically and socially central to rural life, the agricultural societies that run them are a year-round operation — most of which has been shut down entirely due to COVID-19.

“Our agricultural societies are really the heart of many of our rural communities across this country,” he said. “That’s the hub where a lot of those social events take place, whether it’s the weddings, the celebrations, whatever it might be, it takes place at our fairgrounds.”

On Aug. 20, the province announced it was expanding funding eligibility so that all agricultural societies — not just those holding fall fairs — could apply for government grants. A total of $1 million has been committed to helping Ontario’s agricultural sector offset the pandemic-induced losses.

“Our agricultural and horticultural organizations are part of the backbone of rural Ontario,” said Agricultural Affairs Minister Ernie Hardeman. “We are providing this funding to help continue operations and relieve some of the burden they are experiencing during this difficult time.”

Brennan said though $1 million in funding sounds substantial, when stretched across hundreds of agricultural societies, it’s insignificant compared to the losses.

The OAAS predicts the overall loss of income for agricultural societies would be “considerably more” than last year’s ticket sales, which were more than $24 million.

“These agriculture societies do track a wide range of revenue for our communities, and that just isn’t happening this year,” Brennan said. “I’d hate to see that disappear.”

Kate McCullough is a Hamilton-based reporter at The Spectator. Reach her via email: kmccullough@thespec.com