With 118 years under its belt, Armstrong’s Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede has a fair record of fun.
Five days of the year (Aug. 29-Sept. 2 this year), the fair is a highlight for residents up and down the Okanagan, and beyond. Whether its the thrill of the midway and games, the rodeo action, the agricultural element of farm animals and produce or the mouth-watering fair food, the IPE is a staple event on the calendars of residents near and far.
“The size of it is mostly what’s grown,” said Yvonne Paulson, general manager. “The attendance in the very beginning was maybe 20,000 and now we’re up to 150,000.”
The country fair even attracts visitors from out of provinces and out of the country.
“We’re pulling from all over Canada, but predominantly from the Okanagan,” said Paulson, as she gears up for the 119th annual event.
There are a few changes in store for the event, which precedes Labour Day.
A flying trapeze show is coming in from Montreal (replacing the logger’s show) and will wow crowds with their high-flying acts three times daily.
The Great Canadian Roadshow is making a stop at the IPE Thursday, in the barn dance tent.
“So we’re encouraging people to bring their coins and pictures, something that’s small enough to carry, so no furniture,” said Paulson, adding that the dealers may even offer to buy your treasure.
Over in the food court, you can catch Elvis, Johnny and June, Abba, Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks (or the likes of them) entertaining on the Ram Truck Stage. Ventriloquist Damien James will also hit the stage.
Entertainment continues Friday and Saturday nights with Appaloosa at the Barn Dances.
At Kids World there’s plenty of activities and fun, including zucchini races and watermelon and corn eating contests!
“Thursday morning is really fun to go to Kids World and participate or watch,” said Paulson as the above activities kick off at 10 a.m. Thursday.
The Kids World Stage also features Hula dancers, a magic show, Bubble Wonders and more. Kids can also check out the 3-D blacklight experience.
Don’t forget to line the streets for the annual IPE parade Saturday at 10 a.m., thanks to the Armstrong-Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce.
You’ll also see a lot of action between the grandstands with four days of pro rodeo, plus the Finning Canada Pro Rodeo finals Sunday.
“There are eight or nine rodeo stops and ours happens to be the final stop,” said Paulson. “They’ll be aiming for the Canadian Finals Rodeo (Red Deer) with the hope of going to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.”
But these pro cowboys aren’t the only ones kicking up dirt.
The arena hosts lots of different activities, including light horse jumping, mini chuckwagon races every day at 2:30, draft pulling and more.
Plus there’s another ring with halter and reinmanship classes.
At the same time, you can check out some barnyard beauties in the show barn. Or the open dairy show in the agriplex building, the 4H beef competition and the poultry barn.
The only thing missing this year is the rabbits. Due to disease concerns earlier this spring, the rabbit division has been temporarily removed.
But flocks of feathered and hoofed friends will continue to delight fairgoers, along with the most celebrated animal – sheep, which are the theme of the fair this year.
“There are about 20 divisions and that’s just on the agricultural part, outside of everything else that goes on,” said Paulson.
“The agricultural exhibits are a huge draw for people because a lot of people don’t get an opportunity to see what it’s like to interact with the animals, the huge pumpkins that are grown here, the wheat division, etc.”
The IPE is one of the few remaining fairs that keeps a focus on agriculture, but doing so also takes a lot of helping hands. Between 250 and 300 volunteers are needed to bring all the elements of the fair together. That doesn’t include the staff manning the West Coast Amusements midway, food and vendor staff and those making things run behind the scenes year-round.
And there’s always room for more help. Gate attendants are one area the IPE is looking for volunteers. Anyone interested can contact the IPE office at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 250-546-9406 or stop by the office.
Those who already have the IPE marked on their event calendar, be sure to get your discount ride bracelets and family passes before midnight Aug. 28 online (armstrongipe.com) or at the IPE office, Askew’s Foods locations in Armstrong and Salmon Arm, Avalon Event Rentals in Kelowna and Vernon and Valley First (cash only) in Armstrong, Vernon and Enderby.