Morning Star Contributor
An “udderly” good time is about to hit the North Okanagan as the 116th Interior Provincial Exhibition gets underway Wednesday through Sunday.
The theme, Udderly Awesome: Party Til the Cows Come Home, highlights the dairy division and General Manager Bryan Burns is excited about how that will play out at the fair.
He expects lots of cow costumes and cow-themed floats in the parade, creative booth decorations by exhibitors and 4-H members, and people dressed up to the theme throughout the event.
“I think our theme is going to be absolutely stellar,” said Burns, who has his own selection of Holstein-based paraphernalia to choose from. “I think it’s just a great opportunity to represent something that’s really big in our community, which is dairy.”
After eight years at the helm, Burns is still enthusiastic about introducing people to the world of farming even if they are initially drawn to the fair by the midway and other entertainment.
“That, in essence, is what our fair is all about – the agricultural component,” he noted. “Once we’ve brought them here, now we can expose them and get them engaged in agriculture.”
Thys Haambuckers, executive director of the dairy division, said the fair lets people see and do things connected to farming – from animals to food to equipment – in an engaging and friendly atmosphere.
“I think it gives the urban population a gateway to connect with their rural roots,” said Hammbuckers. “This is the only time a lot of the city people get to see any kind of livestock.
“We see other fairs where that component is dying out and we’re still going strong. We like to focus on the agricultural aspect of the fair. That’s what it’s all about.”
With over 2,000 exhibitors and almost 7,000 entries across 19 divisions, people will have ample opportunity to experience a true country fair at this year’s IPE.
But the IPE has tons to offer in addition to its agriculture-based entertainment.
An expanded Iron Chef event will include demonstrations and tastings plus competitions for amateurs and professionals.
The Ram Truck Stage features a new lineup of musical entertainers provided through 542 Entertainment, the nightly Youth Talent Competition and the opening ceremonies on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. There is also the Indie Stage featuring lots of great local up-and-coming talent.
An expanded Kids World has lots of fun activities and performers including a Lego tent, gold panning, flea circus and an illusionist.
There is the always-popular West Coast Lumberjack Show, the Wrangler Canadian Professional Rodeo stocked by the Calgary Stampede, the mini chuckwagon races, farrier demonstrations, dog and rabbit agility shows and a wide array of vendors.
“We have 220 vendors who are geared to showcase their services or products and give you a chance to buy them. Some of them you can only buy at fairs,” added Burns.
Burns said the IPE is a great economic driver for the community but none of it could happen without the 11,000 volunteer hours put in by 450 volunteers in addition to the 38 or so non-profit groups that also work at and benefit from the fair.
Haambuckers said thanks must go to all the exhibitors who dedicate so much time and effort to what they do and then showcase those efforts at the IPE.
“We’re very proud and pleased to have these kinds of people. It doesn’t matter how much work the directors or the staff put into the fair, we’re not going to have a successful fair without exhibitors.”
Changes are made every year to make the fair run better and more smoothly but the effectiveness of any change takes at least two years to determine.
“That’s the challenge of any event. Whether you’re a one-day event or a five-day event, it’s the only time you have to either see what you did wrong or try and fix it or just get ready for the next year,” said Burns.
The addition of composting this year is sure to create some logistical headaches but Burns is determined to reduce the IPE’s footprint by taking such steps.
“We want to do a better job of taking care of the environment as a big event.”
Burns spends a lot of time on the fairgrounds over the five days and he is always impressed at the unique qualities of the IPE.
“It’s such a family friendly atmosphere. It’s comfortable. People can just sit and talk. Everyone’s friendly and you feel that aspect when you come.”
For more information on the IPE check out the special supplement in today’s newspaper.