IPE blooms into season

It’s become as common a Labour Day weekend tradition as back-to-school shopping.

It’s become as common a Labour Day weekend tradition as back-to-school shopping.

The 112th Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede will be a bloomin’ good time this year from Wednesday to Sunday.

The undoubtedly more colourful IPE has let their floral division take over the grounds with the theme “Come for a bloomin’ good time.”

To help incorporate the event into the exhibition, the IPE brought in Communities in Bloom as a partner.

“We thought it would tie in very well,” said IPE president and Armstrong Communities in Bloom chairperson Shirley Fowler.

Local flower shops and nurseries have been given a corner of the grounds with which to add their own personal flair.

Organizers have also decided to use the flower theme to try out a new idea. Attendees are being asked to wear fascinators to the fair this year.

For those who didn’t watch the royal wedding, fascinators are headpieces, usually worn by women on formal occasions, that are made of things like flowers, feathers and lace.

People are encouraged to bring their own from home, but there will also be a booth on site for people to make one.

This year the IPE team will be bringing back some of your favourite activities, and they will be introducing a few new attractions as well.

There’s still more than 220 vendors, 4-H demonstrations, West Coast Amusements, entertainment on the Kids World and Dodge Truck stages, and thousands upon thousands of people.

“We have great crowds,” said Bryan Burns, general manager of the IPE. “We’re the second biggest fair after the PNE in Vancouver.”

Last year the IPE attracted 159,000 people to the small community of Armstrong. This year should be no different, provided of course the weather holds out.

“It’s been pretty bad this year, so I figure it’s gotta get good eventually,” said Burns.

“The IPE is five days long, so we usually have one bad day,” he said, but that doesn’t seem to thin the crowds too much, especially for the out-of-town visitors.

This is Burns’s fourth year organizing the IPE, and he says not only is it getting more comfortable, but it’s getting more exciting as well.

“It always changes and it’s always different, but at least I know what’s coming up.”

And coming up this year is non-stop fun for the whole family.  Activities ranging from amusement rides, live concerts and entertainment, barn tours, baby animals, and hopefully a live birth of a calf.

“We even have llamas doing an obstacle demonstration this year.”

Also back for a second year is the Iron Chef competition which was introduced last year with grant money.

“This year we decided to budget for it,” said Burns, adding that the event was popular, but he thinks they can do better this year. It also ties in well with the agricultural theme and fads like the 100-mile diet.

The competition will be running twice a day, with the finals on Sunday.

The turnout at the IPE is always strong and diverse, but an economic impact study conducted last year revealed some interesting information.

“There are definitely tons of people who come every year, I think about 39 per cent (of attendees) have been coming for seven years or more, but the report showed that 12 per cent are first timers,” said Burns, pleased with the findings.

A few new performers will be joining the IPE lineup including the Trials Stars, a trick bike riding duo from Vancouver.

“They’re amazing riders,” said Burns. “They can do some truly amazing stuff.”

The festivities will kick off Wednesday, when the Lieutenant Governor of B.C., Steven L. Point, comes to open the fair.

For more on the fair visit www.armstrongipe.com.