OFFICERS FOR 2023
PAST PRESIDENT: Dave Arnett, 369-3894
PRESIDENT: Debbie Tucker, 369-7510
FIRST VICE-PRESIDENT: Andrea Watson, 369-5807
SECOND VICE-PRESIDENT: Donna Clark, 369-5848
SECRETARY: Janice Dick, 369-3388 (Office)
TREASURER: Carolin Banjavcic, 369-3388 (Office)
HONORARY DIRECTORS: Jeanne Leese, Jack Milligan
Dave Arnett, Sharon Carmount, Donna Clark, Janice Dick, Matthew Dick , Robin Gingerich, Sally Hyett, Wayne E. Pfeffer, Alanna Tucker, Cory Tucker, David Tucker, Debbie Tucker, Christine Robinson. Scott Robinson, Brenda Tessel Andrea Watson; Taylor Draper, Sarah Dick, Ashley Kilpatrick, Megan Dick.
History of the Durham Agricultural Society
The Durham Agricultural Society has a long and rich history within the town of Durham and surrounding communities. It was established in 1858 under the name South Grey Agricultural Society and by an act of Parliament, the Society’s name was officially changed on April 26, 1934 to the current name of Durham Agricultural Society. Agricultural societies are Ontario’s oldest organizations and were established before the Government. As settlers moved into the Grey and Bruce Counties, they established their homesteads and planted their crops. A highlight for them was the fall season when the men would gather to exhibit and display their year’s produce and thus the Fall Fairs were born.
Over the years, the Durham Fall Fair has been held in several locations throughout this town: at the old Drill Shed in Upper Town, on the face of the hill on Garafraxa Street which is now an entrance to the Saugeen Valley Conservation Park, in a building at the corner of Lambton and Garafraxa Streets and in Moody’s barn near the foot of the hill. Near Moody’s barn was an open field enclosed by a rail fence which was known as the Fair Grounds. The Fairs were next held on the east side of Bruce Street between Lambton and George Street West and finally in 1879, the Fair moved to the present location on Saddler Street West. The current arena is the third set of buildings to house the Fair. In 1890, the Society purchased the current property from the estate of the late Thomas Brown for a sum of $150.00. During the late 1800’s the grounds were improved and more space was provided for the showing of horses. Further purchases of land included the hill and part of the flats. The “hill” provided a natural grandstand for the many visitors, overlooking the race track and flats below. At a later date, a covered and seated grandstand was erected at the foot of the hill opposite the starting point and finishing line of the race track. Later, hen houses and cattle sheds were erected, but stand no longer. In 1890, the addition of a half mile race track was built.
In 1952, the members of the Durham Agricultural Society agreed to turn over their property to the town of Durham for the sum of $1.00 as a site for its new Community Centre. In return, the Agricultural Society was granted the use of the grounds including the new building for eight days each year. Throughout the history of the fair, many events have been featured: the Saugeen Valley Steeplechase, a Fleece Wool Show, a Regional Sheep Show, a Jersey Parish Show, 4-H Calf and Swine Clubs, Pet Shows, Beauty Pageant, Skipping contests, Cream and Butter Commercial Features, Goat Show, Saddle, Heavy and Light Horses, Jr. Calf Club, and 4-H Horse Club, just to name a few, as well as the usual field crop, livestock, and homecraft divisions.
The Society has had many volunteers throughout its history. From 1917 – 1918 the Durham Agricultural Society was honoured to have William Scarf elected as President of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies. In 1954, Anna Koehler served as President of the Homecraft section of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies. Jack Milligan was OAAS District 10 Agricultural director from 1998 – 2000.
In the early years, the local schools closed for the fair and the Furniture Factory also closed for half a day. At the 100th anniversary of the Fair, centennial gates were erected by the Durham Agricultural Society and placed at the entrance to the Community Centre. The gates serve to remind us of the dedication and foresight of former Presidents and Directors. A Provincial grant of $1,000.00 was received for this purpose. The unveiling and dedication service was held in conjunction with the 1958 Fall Fair.
Over the years, the Fair has seen many changes and challenges. In 1995 an “Evening Out” was introduced featuring a delicious roast beef dinner and entertainment by the Paul Brothers and Shirley. This event was established in order to raise funds for the Society and with its success it has become an annual event held in May of each year at the Community Centre. This is a function that many people look forward to. It also serves for the unveiling of the beautiful homemade quilt that to be raffled in the Annual Quilt Draw for the Fall Fair weekend. Each year, as we celebrate another Fall Fair and another anniversary of the Durham Agricultural Society, we look back with pride and gratitude to all those who served the Society diligently. It is from their dedication that our Society today is healthy and active. We are looking forward to seeing everyone at the Fair!