Since 1836 Fergus has been home to a vibrant agricultural fair hosted by the local agricultural society and volunteers that have worked hard year after year, generation after generation to organize the annual event.
What once began as an agricultural fair to educate farmers about improved farming practices and encourage healthy competition promoting the advancement of farming has evolved into what we know today as the Fergus Fall Fair – the tenth oldest fair in Ontario.
The fair started as a one-day cattle show in mid-January. According to local history sources, records of the first fairs were destroyed by fire.
In early days, Pilkington and Nichol townships both had agricultural societies and often held fairs together but couldn’t agree on where to host the fair. There was a long rivalry between the two societies over the location of the fair as one preferred Elora and the other Fergus.
Upon their separation, the Nichol Agricultural Society began hosting the Nichol Agricultural Show in Fergus and in 1867, the Pilkington Agricultural Society started the Pilkington Show in Elora. By 1870, the Nichol Agricultural Society partnered with the Centre Wellington Agricultural Society to host the Union Exhibition in Fergus.
During the mid-1800s, the fair was a one-day event that included showings of cattle, horses, sheep and pigs as well as roots and vegetables, fruits, dairy produce (namely butter) and ladies’ fancywork. The day ended with a Show Dinner. The fair expanded to two days by 1870.
In the early 1900s, the fair included a school children’s exhibit and began to introduce entertainment such as the Guelph Musical Society’s Band.
The name of the fair was officially changed to be the Wellington County Fair in September 1931. The fair dates were also moved ahead one week at this time in hopes of better weather. Referred to as either the Wellington County Fair or the Fergus Fair between 1931 and 1959, the fair was consistently called the Fergus Fall Fair as of 1960.
1979 marked the first Queen of the Fair competition when Mary Wallace was named Miss. Fergus Fall Fair. The competition was opened to males and changed from Queen to Ambassador in the 1990s.
In 1997 the fair outgrew the traditional location of Victoria Park to the Fergus and District Community Centre (what we know today as the Centre Wellington Community Sportsplex).
The first and only Fergus Fall Fair Ambassador to be crowned CNE Ambassador of the Fairs was Jeanine (Wallace) Moyer in 2004.
While agriculture is still the focus of the fair, over the years it has grown to include truck and tractor pulls, midway entertainment, handicraft and food exhibits and more. The Fergus Fall Fair is truly a showcase of the talent among the Centre Wellington community and today’s volunteers are proud to be continuing an event with such a rich local history.