Country fairs were a direct link to Canada's agricultural past, but most have died out.
Aldergrove is one of the few communities that still cherishes that past, and 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Aldergrove Agricultural Society.
Aldergrove has been fortunate to have had people who understood the value of such events, said Mike Robinson, the past president of the Aldergrove Fair Days Society and a board member on the Aldergrove Agricultural Society.
Aldergrove's event started as a venue to bring people together.
The small communities around Aldergrove - Otter, Patricia, Bradner, Poppy, Lehman, Coghlan - "They were just stops along the train tracks or stops in the road," he explained. "There was no place for them to get together."
The fair offered a fun outing that allowed people to show off the results of their labours, be it the best onions or sewing.
"The farming contests were intense," Robinson noted, adding "It was also a way of promoting better breeding [and farming practices]."
Robinson pointed to a farmer who bred turkeys a few decades ago. Before turkeys were thought of as bring mostly good for feathers with little good eating. He bred turkeys with larger breasts, creating the ancestors of the modern turkeys so prized for meat.
In the 1960s and '70s, interest in agricultural fairs waned as people wanted to be thought of as more urban, even though most in the area were still about one generation away from the soil.
The agricultural fairgrounds used to be on the south side of Fraser Highway. The land was developed. Today, the lands include homes and businesses such as Bob's Bar and Grill.
But agriculture remains a lifeblood industry for Aldergrove and much of Langley Township, so the fair has become a popular event as more and more people become interested in where their food comes from and how it's produced.
To help stretch resources, the agricultural society joined forces with Aldergrove Fair Days Society in 2006 to create Aldergrove Fair Days.
"Every community needs an opportunity to celebrate," he said.
Robinson said both organizations would have likely carried on but with smaller events so the "marriage" has been a success.
This year's fair runs July 20-22 at various locations around Aldergrove.
For this milestone year, organizers have been able to add attractions, such as the concert by Dal Richards, hot air balloon rides, and the Farm Hand Challenge.
The challenge is open to anyone 16 and older. The top three contestants compete in the Sunday finals which involves the Fast Draw shooting contest. The reality TV show Get Stuffed is taking part in the contest which features seven fun events.
People compete in events such as leaf blower sheep herding (using beach balls), lawn mower races, laundry hanging, milk crate stacking and cow milking.
Organizers even fashioned their own bovine.
"We imported the teats from Ohio," Robinson chuckled. "It's been tested, and works, by people who've never milked before."
There is still time for last minute parade entries to sneak in under the wire (sign up today, July 17) but final placement for the Saturday parade starts Wednesday.
Forms are online at www.aldergrovefairdays.com, where there is lots of information about the events the group hosts throughout the year.
Aldergrove Fair Days is only possible thanks to volunteers. Anyone interesting in helping out can contact Mary Power at 604-607-7781 or aldergrovevolunteers@ gmail.com.
The agricultural exhibits will be housed in Aldergrove Community Secondary and the judging remains a much-anticipated event for many people.
It's also a great way for urbanites to better understand the industry and how that food gets from the farm to their tables.
"I think people are more conscious now of eating healthy and what eating healthy actually means," Robinson said.
The ag association remains active in the industry as farming changes with the times. Robinson said there are many smaller 10or 15-acre farms producing specialty goods so it's important that producers still have venues to gather, exchange methods and learn from each other.
"The fair also offers a lesson in the importance agriculture has had in the Valley for more than 100 years, and in many ways is the place where the urbanrural divide comes together," said B.C. Agriculture Minister Don McRae.
A Swell kickoff
The 100th anniversary Aldergrove Fair Days features a special Ceremony Saturday at 2 p.m.
@ Copyright 2013