Large crowd takes in Armstrong fair

About 17,051 people passed through the gates Wednesday, opening day for the 118th annual Interior Provincial Exhibition

The Armstrong fair has got off to a strong start.

About 17,051 people passed through the gates Wednesday, opening day for the 118th annual Interior Provincial Exhibition. That’s down from about 1,200 last year.

“It’s a pretty good number for day one,” said Yvonne Paulson, general manager.

“People are likely waiting for the weekend but it’s difficult to know when they will show up.”

Steady attendance was expected Thursday, but the crowd is expected to swell Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

A total of 150,000 people took in last year’s fair.

But while numbers are being crunched, organizers are already declaring the 2017 festivities a success based on feedback.

“People have really enjoyed the illusionist on the stage and the variety of food,” said Paulson.

On Wednesday, the IPE was flooded with families taking in the rides, animals and entertainment. Toddlers peered through the bars to get closer to the animals and older children ran between rides hoping to be next in line.

The baby goats and piglets were crowd pleasers and fair-goers have the opportunity to hold baby chicks and rabbits as well.

Lesley Thibault, of Vernon, was wandering the barns with her sons Dax, two, and Tage, one, and the fair is a family favourite.

“We’ve been coming for the last three years because the kids love the animals,” said Thibault.

Others have their own reasons for heading to Armstrong.

“I love the rides, donuts and ice cream,” said Cheyenne Webster, 11, who was busy sweeping out the barn and shows sheep with the Okanagan Shuswap 4-H Lamb Club.

The grandstand is also filled up nightly as the rodeo proves popular.

Wildfire smoke Wednesday didn’t impact enthusiasm and the forecast for the rest of the fair is positive.

“We’re looking forward to awesome weather, so heat is an issue. We’re making sure there’s lots of water and people are hydrated,” said Paulson.