By Stephen Petrick
Guy Scott knows a fair amount about the Kinmount Fair.
He knows about its distant history, he knows about its recent past and he knows why it has managed to survive to a point where, this coming Labour Day weekend, it’s expected to reach its 150th year.
Scott, a fifth-generation Kinmount resident and long-time volunteer for the Fair, has authored a new book titled The Story of the Kinmount Fair; the Fair with the Forward Look.
The self-published book was released in January and copies have already been sold to many supporters of the much-beloved Fair.
Scott, an avid historian and experienced author, has also written a book about Kinmount and a book about Ontario fairs in general. So it was only natural that his next book be, specifically, about the Kinmount Fair.
He believes the Fair is special because it has found a time-tested way to survive, despite the fact it represents a small community and is not even located in prime agricultural land, where fairs tend to survive.
Kinmount is a community of about 500 people, located on a point of Ontario’s map where, almost exactly, three municipalities meet: Township of Minden Hills, Trent Hills and the City of Kawartha Lakes.
“I guess you might say, the more we changed, the more we stayed the same,” said Scott, explaining the Fair’s longevity.
He said that the Fair has made a point of having different entertainment and attractions each year, but still maintain its roots as a country fair, with horse shows, cow shows and other traditional features.
But the Fair is special to Scott because it’s an event which has brought community members and visitors together for generations, just to have fun. The photos he found and borrowed from community members while putting the book together reaffirmed this thought.
The photos showed “kids who were asleep, tired, dirty, happy.” It was no problem getting people to share their old photos because “they felt so good at the Fair they wanted to show how happy they were at the Fair.”
He said the collection of photos and anecdotes he gathered while working on his book showed how the Fair has evolved from something that was for the rural, agricultural community to something that preserves and showcases that community.
“100 years ago, people who went to the Fair were mostly farmers and it was a day’s outing,” he said. “Today, it’s the exact opposite. People who come to the Fair today, wouldn’t know a Holstein from a heifer. It’s kind of an opportunity [for] some education.”
Scott said another move that helped the Fair survive was enabling people to stay on the fairgrounds with camper trailers/vans in the 1970s. Now, upwards of 600 people can stay on the fairgrounds during the annual end of summer event. It’s helped the Fair maintain a fun, family-friendly party atmosphere.
In the fair’s last years before the COVID pandemic, it could expect to see 30,000 people cross the gates over the three days.
“It’s a chance to touch base with your roots,” Scott said. “Some exhibitors have to drive forever to go to our Fair and they still do. And, let me tell you, they don’t do it for the money.”
Scott realizes his book is being published at a precarious time for fairs. As many small communities had to cancel their fairs in 2021 and 2020, there’s worry that some might not come back.
Scott said that, as of 2019, 220 community summer fairs were being held across Ontario.
“We’re going to lose 10 per cent of them, if not a lot more,” Scott predicts. “But maybe that was coming. But the ones that do survive, the aggressive ones, I think they’ll do even better.”
Scott believes Kinmount’s Fair, for which he’ll be the president this year, will survive.
He recalls a conversation about the upcoming year in which, “somebody said, the crowd will be terrible. But I think the crowd will be good. People want to get out and have a good time.”
Scott’s book is being sold at the Kinmount Artisans Market Place, which is open Friday, Saturdays and Sundays during the winter at the Kinmount Community Centre. It can also be purchased from him directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.