Everyone driving through Caledonia notices the Queens County Fair buildings, a group of green buildings located on your right as you enter the village from the south. Some of these buildings are venerable, the main fair building having been in place since the eighteen hundreds.
By Tom Sheppard
The condition of the buildings is remarkable, given their years in service. They have been watched over by a dedicated community, intent on their preservation. Much of the work has been volunteer labour, and pennies have always been watched, yet there has never been enough money to do all of what had to be done. Even so, the directors of the fair have been able to keep the buildings going and even to build a number of new ones.
This past week, the new mayor of the Region of Queens, Chris Clarke, and our Member of Parliament, Gerald Keddy, met with community members in the dining hall of the Queens County Fair to make a pair of announcements. They had just come from enjoying lunch at the Hollow Log Cafe.
Mayor Clarke, clearly relishing the reprise of his role as mayor and happy to be back in North Queens, unveiled heritage plaques for two of the Fair buildings - the Main Building, which dates back to 1886, and the Pavilion, built in 1920. The heritage plaques are part of the Region of Queens' heritage designation program, and recognize the role the Queens County Fair has played in the history of the county.
The Fair is one of the main events on the South Shore calendar. It was begun when the people of North Queens decided to find permanent quarters for its agricultural exhibition, first held in Harmony in 1880. It was renamed the Queens County Fair, an exhibition for all of Queens County, in 1935.
Matilda Fiske Dailey, whose great-granddaughter Judy Cole still occupies the ancestral home on the Rosette Road in Westfield, wrote to her brother in California in 1886 that the people of North Queens had, that summer, "built a large wooden building where we could hold our agricultural exhibitions." She told her brother that the building was erected right where the old Baptist meeting house had stood, and that the exhibition had been held on the 13th and 14th of October.
She said there were "about 2000 persons present," and that at one point they counted 200 teams on the grounds, "besides all that were at the stables."
The wooden building referred to in the letter is the very one to which the heritage plaque unveiled by Mayor Clarke and Queens County Fair President David Freeman will be affixed. Clarke said that Queens County had a wealth of buildings which were of great historical significance, and that he had heard it said that there were more 18th Century buildings in this county than in any other in the province. "Some of these buildings are officially recognized by various levels of government, some are recognized through books and other publications, and some are recognized locally."
He said that many of these properties, such as the ones being recognized that day, have played an important part in the development of our communities, and that the main building and pavilion were certainly worthy of recognition for the role they had played in the history of the local area. "In fact," he said, "the main building was built in 1886, and must be one of the oldest fair buildings in the province."
He unveiled two plaques, one for the main building and one for the pavilion, a round building which used to house a carousel with carved wooden animals. Clarke said that during his first term as mayor he was part of a committee to restore the merry-go-round, but it proved too difficult to accomplish. He said he remembered talking to local people who had ridden on the carousel and that there were some animals that were "cool" and some that people tried to avoid. "The rooster was the one that everybody tried to avoid."
Among those watching the ceremony was Deputy Mayor Darlene Norman, now the chair of the Region of Queens Heritage Committee. She took over that position after Owen Hamlin gave up his seat as councillor in order to run for mayor. Other newly-minted councillors in attendance were Susan MacLeod, Raymond Fiske and Jack Fancy, plus returnees Bruce Inglis and Peter Waterman, who represents the Northern District.
After Mayor Clarke was through, David Freeman introduced MP Gerald Keddy, who made the announcement of a $12,750 grant to help with roof repairs and electrical system upgrades to buildings on the grounds. The funds came from the federal government's Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund, and Keddy spoke on behalf of Bernard Valcourt, who is Minister of State with responsibility for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Keddy, who comes from New Ross, was impressed that Queens County had a main building in place in the 1880s, while in New Ross the agricultural exhibitions were held in a field at the time. He said the improvement of facilities at the Queens County Fair was a part of the government's program to boost economic activity and maintain a high quality of life for Canadians.
David Freeman said the money would be put with $10,000 from the Exhibition Association of Nova Scotia and $2500 from the Queens County Fair Association to maintain and upgrade the Fair buildings.
- Tom Sheppard can be reached at email@example.com