A Typical Exhibition Day
Until 1970, the Exhibition was only held on one day and, until 1966, that was a Wednesday. When the weather was bad it was postponed to the next day. During that period and until about 1960, many businesses in town and stores in the surrounding area closed on Wednesday afternoon, and the employees were given a holiday. Likewise, marriages were normally conducted in the middle of the week.
From 1903 to 1927, the Exhibition took place between the dates of October 5 and 21. After that, it was held in the second half of September. Finally, from 1956 on, it moved to the first half of the month.
As mentioned above, the Exhibition was held on the grounds of the Egmont Bay church hall from 1904 to 1938. This site lent itself well since, in addition to the large church hall, it included a second building which belonged to the C.M.B.A. (Catholic Mutual Benefit Association). The first building housed the cereals, fruits, vegetables and the women’s exhibits, and the official opening was held there. The second building served as a dining hall. The livestock occupied the grounds behind and alongside these buildings, where stalls and pens as well as the judging ring were erected. An improvised canteen, called the “saloon,” was also located on the grounds.
The morning of the Exhibition was reserved for preparations. The farm men and women arrived with their animals and other produce to be exhibited from eight o’clock, taking care that everything was ready in time for the official opening. For many years the farmers had to bring their big animals on foot.
The official opening took place in the early afternoon with the parish priest serving as master of ceremonies. They started by singing O Canada before the floor was given to various distinguished guests, who usually included the lieutenant governor, the premier and the provincial minister of Agriculture. In their remarks the speakers congratulated the directors and exhibitors, and emphasized the event’s strong points. Sometimes the guests also made suggestions for improvement.
The speakers often took advantage of the occasion to express their opinions on the importance of agriculture.
After singing God Save the King, which concluded the opening ceremony, the judges set to work watched by the spectators, estimated at 1,000 in 1910. People also wandered around the grounds to see the produce on display, to quench their thirst at the “saloon” or to enjoy a good hot meal in the C.M.B.A. hall. For a long time the Exhibition excluded gambling games, merry-go-rounds, music and dancing, amusements which in those days were offered at church picnics. The organizers saw the Exhibition strictly as an educational activity to be promoted with the least possible distractions. The event closed around 4:30 pm.