Buddies Brayden Schwaerzle

Buddies Brayden Schwaerzle

Record opening day at Armstrong fair

About 7,000 exhibits have been set up on the Interior Provincial Exhibition fairgrounds

The aroma of mini doughnuts and fair food, mixed with barnyard smells, waft in the air while screams and laughter echo from the midway alongside the sounds of livestock and poultry.

It’s not your typical fair setting, but the mix of agriculture and fair make a fitting pair – just ask any of the 18,327 people who strolled through the Interior Provincial Exhibition Wednesday.

“We had a record crowd for a Wednesday, which was great,” said Yvonne Paulson, general manager.

Last year’s Wednesday attendance was 17,145 people (attendance for Thursday was not known at press time).

While everyone is enjoying the 117th annual event, which continues daily through to Sunday, behind the scenes there is a flurry of action taking place to make it all happen.

“It gets intense,” admits Lauren Erickson, who works at the IPE office, as she deals with everything from entries to special requests and lost and found items.

A major aspect are the 7,000 exhibits that have been set up on the fairgrounds, including in the Hassen and Nor-Val arenas.

There’s more than 200 horses (light, heavy and mini), another 200 plus cows (beef and dairy) and then there are all the 4H animals.

The three sows and their litters have drawn a lot of attention as everyone ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ over the baby pigs. So too have the cows and calves in the Mooternity ward.

The poultry barns are full with the sounds of roosters, geese and chickens echoing.

“It sounds like they’re laughing at us,” said Jan Dobson, director of rabbits, as she peeks around the quiet Bushels of Buns for Everyone corner to ask the birds what all the racket is about.

Dobson looks after all the rabbit entries, 21 of which are her own and include some unique and rare breeds.

While the noise and hustle and bustle of people might seem upsetting to some, Dobson says the fair is actually very beneficial for the animals.

“It’s good for them to get used to things. If you protect them from everything then they can’t cope,” said Dobson, while helping nine-year-old Kai Martin enter his dwarf lion head rabbit named Cloud. “They get used to going in a car and being around people and animals.”

And there’s a lot of help to ensure the animals are looked after.

“We have approximately 30 grounds crew making sure there’s shavings in the barn and what not,” said Terry Hannah, who is in charge of vendor relations at the IPE.

There’s another 50 or so paid staff members who man the gates, and the information booth alone has 150 volunteers ready to help people find everything from the carboard cut-out of Keith Urban to win tickets to the Ram Truck Raffle.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Hannah, who works year round at the IPE office and has been involved for about 20 years.

“I love the fair! I absolutely love the excitement, the speed, the rush. It’s my drug.

“It’s part of what we live and eat and breathe!”

Hannah’s loved it ever since she was a kid and visited the fair, and after moving to Armstrong from Enderby, it’s where she found her fair family from a newspaper ad looking for volunteers.

“I started out in the United Church dining hall ladling out potatoes.”