Nine-year-old Nevaeh Lutz (middle) clutches her prize eggs tightly as she delivers her IPE entry Tuesday alongside her dad Orval and siblings Grace and Henry. For more photos

Nine-year-old Nevaeh Lutz (middle) clutches her prize eggs tightly as she delivers her IPE entry Tuesday alongside her dad Orval and siblings Grace and Henry. For more photos

IPE brings families together

The five-day Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede kicks off today at the Armstrong fairgrounds

Between the rides, rodeo, animals, entertainment, food, exhibits and wealth of fun to be discovered, the IPE is quite literally Bushels of Fun for Everyone.

The Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede kicks off today at the Armstrong fairgrounds – the first of five full days of excitement from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (however entertainment, midway and other activities remain open until later hours).

As Western Canada’s largest agricultural exhibition, the IPE is expected to draw 160,000 people through its gates between today and Sunday.

While locals love the 117th annual event, it draws tourists and exhibitors from all over North America.

“This is second to none,” said Yvonne Paulson, IPE general manager.

It’s the rich agricultural component which the IPE is known for, and what keeps bringing people back. While bigger fairs in bigger centres might draw more bodies, there is nothing quite like the IPE anywhere else.

“Playland and the midway and everything is fantastic, but it can be duplicated anywhere,” said Thys Haambuckers, IPE vice president.

“The PNE I think had 27 calves this year and we have clubs that bring in 27 calves,” said Haambuckers, who is also the department head of the dairy division, and whose family is heavily involved with the cows and volunteering.

It’s true for North Okanagan families like the Jong’s and Lutz’s.

Enderby’s nine-year-old Nevaeh Lutz proudly clutched her prize eggs tightly as she walked through the fairgrounds with her family Tuesday to deliver her entry.

While the rides are her favourite part about the fair, there’s something special about having an entry in the fair which gets displayed with her name and the potential of winning a ribbon.

“It’s fun,” said dad Orval Lutz. “They get to grow it through the year and they start picking the stuff they want to enter.”

For two-year-old Henry, it was an eight-pound watermelon, 11-year-old Grace entered a conjoined cucumber, mom entered some watermelons and dad entered a cantaloupe.

“Mom won once with her sewing and Grace won the biggest zucchini,” beamed Nevaeh.

The same goes for the Jong family, who made an extra-special tribute this year in memory of Louie Non Chip Jong.

“She was very instrumental in contributing to show our vegetables. Matt Hassen Junior was president at that time and he talked my mom into exhibiting, since 1965,” said daughter Mary Jong, who has been coming to the fair ever since she can remember with her elementary school. “It’s a family affair.”

Such stories and traditions are what the fair is built on, and continues to build on.

“We’ve kept our grassroots, we’ve kept our agricultural aspects and that’s what keeps people coming back,” said Terry Hannah, vendor relations, who helps run the busy IPE office.

Highlighting the grain and seed division is where the theme Bushels of Fun for Everyone comes from.