Ontario doles out $5M to offset loss of cancelled fall fairs

Photo by Blackburn London

Agricultural societies struggling financially due to the cancellation of fall fairs are getting a cash infusion from the province.

Using the Western Fair District as a backdrop, Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman announced Monday the Ontario government is kicking in $5 million to help offset revenue losses for eligible agricultural and horticultural societies.

The agricultural groups were hard hit when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of fall fairs and other annual exhibits, their main income generator.

“Our agricultural and horticultural organizations play a vital role in communities across rural Ontario,” said Hardeman. “We want to preserve the rich tradition of fall fairs, exhibitions and activities that are key to rural economies and a mainstay of rural life in this province. This additional funding will help support these organizations during this difficult period so they can continue operating and contribute to our economic recovery.”

The $5 million, which was included in last Thursday’s provincial budget, is one-time funding.

More than 200 fall fairs, including London’s Western Fair, were scrapped or flipped to virtual events this year due to public health restrictions that limit the size of public gatherings.

“The Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies (OAAS), is grateful for the support from our Ontario Government,” OAAS Manager Vince Brennan said in a statement. “This investment shows the confidence and appreciation they have for Ag Societies and their impact in Ontario, especially during these challenging times. This funding will undoubtedly help inspire and support our Ag Societies in their communities and rural way of life.”

In August, the province also eased eligibility requirements for a $1 million grant program for agricultural societies that require they host fall fairs in order to qualify.