by Edna Gardener Lowry
Who is there that doesn’t like to go to
the fair? We think of the old song
which says ‘Hi Ho, Come to the Fair’.
There is excitement in the air, there is
so much to see and to hear and so
much going on all around you.
We cannot but look back to those
early days so far in the distance
when the pioneers of the area felt the
need to get together each fall, and
show with pride some of the
highlights of the year’s work; “where
old friends could meet, to meet new
The annual fair of the North Lanark
Agricultural Society is one that we
should enjoy. It is one of the oldest
fairs in the Ottawa Valley,
continuously in operation each year
without a break. It began in Carleton
Place, not Almonte, away back in
1840 when the Bathurst District
Agricultural Society was formed.
The Bathurst District included Lanark
and Renfrew counties and that part of
Carleton County which included
Bytown. It had Perth as its judicial
centre, here all property was
registered and all court cases tried,
even for Bytown. However, the
Bathurst District gave way to the
riding of Lanark and Renfrew and
finally the North and South ridings of
Lanark were created in 1848.
The North Lanark Agricultural Society
continued from the former district
The annual “Show Fair” was held for
a number of years in Carleton Place.
Then because many more Ramsay
people were exhibitors, a meeting
was held in the Ramsay town hall, on
the 8th line near the Auld Kirk, Jan
22, 1858. There the Constitution was
drawn up for the North Lanark
Agricultural Society which was to
hold its annual fair at Ramsayville,
For a few years the fair was held on
the McFarlane Farm where Boyd
Jamieson now lives. An annual picnic
was also held there by the society.
However in 1862 three acres of land
were purchased in the town beside
the river where it has remained.
An agricultural hall and drill shed was
built in 1865 for this was the time of
the Fenian Raids. In 1868 the roof fell
in from the great weight of snow so the present agricultural hall had to be
built the next year. It provides space
for exhibits of fruits and vegetables,
flowers, grain, baking, canning,
sewing and children’s exhibits, as
well as commercial displays and
refreshment counter and tables.
In 1868 the spacious grand stand
was erected where over the years
horse lovers have witnessed races,
hurdle jumping and high stepping
beauties, massive draft horses and
parades of horses and cattle in the
There were always several bands in
attendance, brass bands and
highland pipe bands and military
bands. It was here that many people
saw their first moving pictures and
watched balloons ascend and float
away. Their passengers would land
somewhere, sometimes near,
sometimes far away. Usually there
was a display of trapeze work when
you held your breath in fear lest the
performer crashed to his death.
There were wonderful shows with
elephants walking on milk bottles,
trained seals, playing drums and
throwing blazing torches to each
other to be caught in their mouth.
There were clowns and trained dogs.
The acrobats and performers were a
great thrill. Boys and girls went home
determined to try the same stunts or
train their dogs or horses to perform
like those at the show.
The climax came on the final night
when a great delight was the
marvelous display of fireworks which
lit up the sky with rockets and
sparklers such as we have not seen
for many years.
In earlier days the agricultural society
not only put on the annual fair but
sought to improve livestock and
farming practices. They imported fine
herd sires and made them available
to livestock breeders.
They held field
crop competitions and annual
ploughing matches which attracted
many farmers. They even had
mowing matches where machines of
different makes were in competition
so that farmers could see which
could do the best job. Cash prizes
were awarded at the fair for ploughs
and other farm implements
manufactured in the area, prizes
were given also for homemade cloth,
blankets, carpets, homemade cheese
and maple sugar.
We have reason to respect and
admire the foresight and determination of our forefathers in
promoting improved agricultural
practices through competition and
encouragement to stimulate a desire
for the best. Only good farmers can
succeed now as then. The social
aspect of the fair was also very
important. It is good for the rural
people to get together and meet with
both their rural and urban friends and
acquaintances. It is bound to create
We also have reason to thank the
present officers and workers for their
untiring efforts and endless labour in
building up this fine organization.
As the scope of the work grew, it was
found necessary to expand the area
and make additions to the property.
The society has been able over the
years to purchase and pay for
expansion. Indeed it has the deeds
for eleven parcels of land needed for
its wider scope of activities.
The NLAS buildings have been a
great asset and have been kept up to
date. There are now new buildings for
all of the livestock.
A fine commodious dining hall where
the best of meals are served is
another great asset, as well as further
provisions for refreshments in the
main hail and under the grandstand.
The main hail is a very superior
building in which to house exhibits.
The society has been very gracious
over the years in sharing its facilities
with the people of the town and
community. The grounds have been
used as a ball park and many
spectacular games of baseball,
football and lacrosse have been
played here over the years. They
have also shared the fine beach
which has made it possible for the
children to learn to swim under
supervision. The main hail is used for
wedding receptions and dances.
This NLAS Fair at first was a one day
affair. In 1868 it became a two day
fair and the attendance rose that year
to between five thousand and six
thousand people. Now a three day
fair is held with the first day being the
day on which exhibits are prepared
and placed and Friday and Saturday
for the crowd. Here’s hoping that the
weather is fine this year and the
crowds are big.
Hi, Ho, Come to the fair–by Edna Gardener Lowry