The constant in Heather King’s life pre-COVID was the Interior Provincial Exhibition in her hometown of Armstrong.
Only once did she miss the annual fair and that was when she went to Alberta’s legendary agricultural post-secondary institute, Olds College, to study one of the college’s non-agricultural programs.
“I was studying fashion design at an agricultural school, yep,” laughed King, now the general manager of the IPE which returns after a two-year pandemic hiatus Aug. 31-Sept. 4.
King’s involvement with the fair began as a 4H Club member with her brother and sister. She and her brother were in the 4H Swine Club, her sister was involved in horses, and King grew up volunteering for the fair, doing what needed to be done.
Because she took fashion in school and loves to sew, King would enter the IPE’s sewing and quilting division competitions. The former division director asked her to take over that particular committee upon their retirement.
“I had four kids under the age of six, I said, ‘Sure. Why not?” said King. “I’m a die-hard volunteer.”
She was on the IPE board for 20 years up until February 2021 when she was then named the fair’s new general manager. Then COVID hit.
“Two years with no fair, there was a lot of waiting, seeing what was going to happen next,” said King.
The waiting and patience has paid off as the fair returns later this month, the first with King at the helm.
“We have a good team, a strong executive, an engaged board,” said King. The IPE board consists of 29 members. Most company’s boards consist of seven or eight people. “That’s just our executive. We have good representation. Every division has a representative on the board. You need valuable members on the board with experience in field and seed, honey and sewing and quilting.”
This year’s theme – Our Roots Run Deep – is dedicated to the vegetable division of the fair.
Buoyed by large attendance figures for the return of the Falkland Stampede earlier this year, and a Big Rigs bull riding production in April, King is excited and hopeful that people return to the IPE Grounds.
“We just want it to be a great event,” she said. “We want people to be able to create memories and bring back the magic to the IPE.”
West Coast Amusements will be back providing the midway entertainment for the IPE. Kids World is being re-branded into a Community Corner that will allow local organizations to promote themselves. A two-day artisan market is planned for Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
One of the IPE’s biggest attractions is the Canadian Professional Rodeo which normally runs the full five days of the fair. There’s a bit of a twist this year.
“The rodeo will be held at night during first four days of the fair with the finals on the Saturday night,” said Kin. The rodeo will include a new ladies breakaway roping event as well as the services of a professional rodeo clown.
“On Sunday, the Canadian Professional Bull Riding Association will be putting on a two-hour show with straight bull riding. No bull there.”
More information on fair and tickets can be found at armstrongipe.com