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History of the Ag Soceity

How it Began

When it was created in1885 it was simply called the “Norfolk and District Agricultural Society”, as it is on the stamp. “Westbourne, set up as a municipality in 1877 was the first in Manitoba. Norfolk was cut off from it and in turn was divided in 1882 (forming North Norfolk).” Because the Assiniboine River and the hills were deemed an obstacle to business of the Society the name was changed to the “North Norfolk and District Agricultural Society #2”

Early Directors

Not a great deal is known about the society in its early days. The Hon. Walter Clifford was the first President, and Wm. Hay was the first Secretary-Treasurer. The first Directors included Stephen Thompson, James Muir, and Wm. Cairns. The first women Directors recorded were: Mesdames H Giffin, Duncan Shaw and Richard Muir. WB Gilroy was Secretary-Treasurer for 35 years and was given credit for much of the organizations early success. Tom Clark served after Gilroy for 25 years. There were 10 directors listed in 1901 and 59 directors in 1967, for Centennial celebrations. In 1897 the president was A L Alton. George Moffat, James Richardson, W Cairns in 1905 and C Street followed Cairns in 1907.

 

The “Nor’West Farmer and Manitoba Miller” of 1885 reports that the first exhibition of the North Norfolk Agricultural Society was held during October in MacGregor. The second exhibition was held in Austin and would then alternate for some time until it was held permanently in MacGregor. Austin hosted the annual Dominion Day Sports, which also started in 1885.

 

In 1908 and 1909 there was no exhibition due to lack of interest and low membership rates By 1910 the society had re-organized, and the fair on October 7 was deemed a success. They recognized the need to work with other groups and in 1911 the Ag Society, the Rink, the Athletic Co, and the Publicity and Development League met to “consider the advisability of getting a piece of land for exhibitions and athletic purposes.”

Housing the Fair

In 1912 these three groups secured 14 acres north of the tracks from the CPR, ranging from Grafton N to highway #350 to house the agricultural shows and all athletic games. A 160’ X 60’ skating / curling arena had been built on this site in 1908, just behind the current East End Grocery, and had housed the fair. A separate exhibit hall was built in 1914; Sidney Brick and Tile Co donated a carload of bricks for it. It is interesting to note that in 1914 this hall was labeled “MacGregor Agricultural Society”. Later a show ring with announcer’s booth was added; sheds were built for sheep and pigs along the track. Poultry was also shown.

A great wind storm/cyclone in 1926 (or 1928) took the center out of the arena. It was repaired - two cars were raffled off to pay for it - but a new arena was built in 1930. Snow cracked the rafters on this arena in the late ‘60s and the decision was made that the town and the RM would build a new arena further north on town land previously owned by Harv and Merle Chant. It included what had been ‘Tom Lamb’s bush’ (part of the golf course) on the east side, to the Centennial Park and Norfolk Manor now on the west side. The Ag Society turned its land south of the track over to the town for town use, in exchange for the right to use the new arena for its fairs. Some barns were moved to the new location, other new
ones were built there. So the NorMac Centre was built in 1971. Part of the golf course is built on land designated for Ag Society use; in the spirit of compromise #4 hole is not used during the fair.


Ag Society Grants

Having the Agricultural Society onside was a definite boon for building the arena. They were able to access sizable grants ($95,000) because this was designated as a multi-purpose building. As the total cost of the new structure was about $300,000 this was no small contribution. The Ag Society still accesses grants to help in the upkeep of the out buildings – the shed roofs have been clad in steel, and semi-permanent horse and cattle rings have been built. Special fair attractions over the years have included the King Farmer competition from 1983 to 1987, tractor driving and welding competitions, truck rodeos, horseshoe tournaments and antique tractor pull. Kids’ attractions have included baby animal fairs, dog shows, calf scrambles, ‘mutton bustin’, bike rallies and scavenger hunts, a bicycle rodeo, pony rides, and ‘Whiz Kid’ and ‘Jr. Aggie’ competitions.

 

4-H has played an important role in the fairs since the 1950s with several clubs holding their achievements then. Beef club calves were auctioned off at the 4-H rally in Portage until in the late 1950’s local clubs had their own rally day and sale at the MacGregor fair. North Norfolk clubs over the years include Austin, Bagot, Beaver, Firdale, MacGregor, Path Head, Orangeville, Pine Creek, Rosehill, Rossendale, Sidney and Springbrook with projects in beef, swine, sewing and garden clubs to mention only a few.


In 1997 the fair was host to the newly formed Rodeo. For 7 years an excellent show drew many people. But...2003 was the year of BSE, and the cattle industry and agriculture in general was devastated. The committee felt it could not ask a stressed industry for the money needed to stage a show of this caliber. So unfortunately that chapter came to an end.But...in 2019 Bull Bash was held with great success.

 

The homecraft displays that once were a big attraction of the fairs were dropped in 1996 but brought to life again in 2016 for 4 years until covid hit.

 

The animals – the light and heavy horses and the cattle have remained the basis of the fair. For a few years in the 1980’s animal displays, and from 1986 to 1990 dairy cattle, replaced cattle breed shows. The horses have weathered ups and downs and are quite strong. 4H beef and horse clubs round out the roster for a fine show.

Besides the Fairs

The Ag Society held plowing matches on farms around the municipality. The first annual was on June 17, 1913 at the home of Mrs. Thomas Collier. Walking plow prizes were awarded to OK Bilton, John McIlwaith and Wm. Sims. Gang plow winners were: Adam Ingleton, W Shaw, and D Roberts. The sweepstake prize, a $70 silver trophy presented by Municipal Council, was won by OK Bilton. The Ladies’ prize of $10 for the best-dressed team went to Wm. Shaw. Sports were played during the day.

 

The following year the match held at P Poyser’s farm was also a success. The Sweepstakes trophy went to W Rodgers of Edwin. The ladies’ prize for the youngest competitor west of Emmeline was given to Wm Bryce, and east of Emmeline to Walter Critchlow. Prizes were awarded again for the Walking Plow, Gang Plow, and there was also a class for Boys under 21, which went to W Shaw, E Turner and E Wright. Boys Under 15 winners were W Critchlow and Wm Bryce. It is unknown how long these contests lasted. In 1915 it was held on the McRae farm at Katrime.

 

The Ag Society worked with the North Norfolk School Trustees’ Association to host school Field Days for several years in the ‘20s and ‘30s. These were big events with parades, bands, school work, sports, plus a number of interesting ‘Special Prizes’. John Gray, the Sec-Treas., was instrumental in these fairs. See brochure for more information.

 

From 1992 to 1995 the Ag Society hosted community workshops called ‘Tapping Community Resources’. These conferences in early January highlighted the human resources we have in our midst. Besides hearing success stories from local North Norfolk entrepreneurs, there were excellent special resource speakers including Fred McGuinness of Brandon, the ultimate supporter of local entrepreneurship; Richard Rounds who got us started on our Round Table discussions; a dynamic entrepreneur/speaker from New Brunswick; and the Very Reverend Stan McKay who pointed out what a well rounded community we have here. See Mr. McGuinness’s books of entrepreneurs (including Ralph and Linda
Lloyd).


In 2009 the Society honoured Ag Extension Service people who had worked in this area, from either the Portage or the Carberry offices. The Ag Reps and Home Ecs, plus ag specialists contributed not only to the Society but to agriculture and rural life in general. They encouraged the use of better breeding and management of livestock and poultry and grain. Through 4-H and other programs they encouraged local leadership skills. They sparked a number of community projects such as auction marts, seed cleaning plants and an expansion of crops from barley, wheat and oats to include hay and potatoes. Their role was much the same as the development officers that appeared later. We owe a great deal to them.
Certificates of appreciation were presented by the North Norfolk and District Agricultural Society and the RM of North Norfolk in a special ceremony at the 2009 fair.


The Current Ag Society

Over the past 125 years life has changed almost beyond comprehension – in agriculture, industry, transportation, all facets of personal and business life. Peoples amusement did not come from sitting at home with the television or computer. In this young land people worked together out of necessity, and organizations were formed that provided social and business support.

The Agricultural Society was one of these organizations. When it was established in 1885, the Agricultural Society attempted to build community and keep agriculture in it’s forefront.

The current executive of the Agricultural Society is:
                         President – Jim Klywak               Secretary/Treasurer – Joanne Armstrong
Other directors include: Karla Gurke (Heartland Recreation Commission, Director) Rose Dondo (MacGregor chamber Rep.)

Special Thanks

To Ronald Kalberg and Wayne Moore who are the longest serving directors – Ron has been a director for 60 plus years and Wayne almost as long. Wayne has shared his talents and his love of horses with other societies:. Wayne was recognized by the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair in 2008 in appreciation for “56 years as exhibitor, director, and volunteer”.

The Manitoba Association of Agricultural Societies (MAAS) presented Wayne with a life membership in 2007 in recognition of his contribution to District 2 Provincial Exhibition Associations.

2020

With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the world, the 2020 physical fair had to be cancelled. But this did not stop the board from thinking outside the box. The 2020 virtual fair was held in June and it included a walk/drive thru parade in which people decorated their yards in different themes. Home crafts was changed to Community exhibits and they were submitted by email or online. Many
new classes were added to include music (vocal or instrumental), acting, and skits, etc.
Then there was the virtual horse show. Seventeen classes were available for everyone from anywhere to take part in. In these seventeen classes people had to either take pictures or videos and submit them online. The result of this was submissions from all over the province! The board considers the virtual fair a success, with a huge thank you going to Joanne Armstrong and Jim Klywak for putting it all together.

Looking into the Future

Well...2021 has been about the same as how 2020 ended. But looking into the future for the North Norfolk Agricultural society, we are hoping to have new board members join, so that the 2022 MacGregor Fair can be bigger than ever. The board usually meets 4 to 6 times a year and it is a fun, and casual atmosphere. If you are interested in more information about becoming a board member or helping out with the planning of the 2022 fair please feel free to reach out to any of the current board members: Jim Klywak, Joanne Armstrong, Karla Gurke or Rose Dondo or email
macgregorfair@hotmail.com or visit the website www.macgregorfair.ca.

 

North Norfolk and District Agricultural Society

1885 – Ag Society was created and 1st exhibition held
1908, 1909 – No exhibitions
1908 – Arena built in MacGregor north of the tracks, houses fair
1912 – Ag Society secures 14 acres north of the tracks
1913 – Ag Society holds 1st annual plowing match at Emeline
1914 – A separate Exhibit Hall is built
1920s, 1930s – School Field Days
1930 – New Arena / Barns are built on old site
1962 – 75th fair anniversary celebrations – “Looking Backwards” columns
1967 – Big Centennial celebrations – MacGregor Herald Special Edition
1971 – NorMac Centre built on current site

1987 – 100th fair week-long celebrations– photo display in what will become Archives building in Bank of Montreal building

1987 – Rodeo comes to town
1993 – Last rodeo, became a victim of BSE among other things
1992-1995 – Ag Society holds Community Days
1996- Home craft displays are stopped
1997- 2003 - Fair Rodeo
2010 – 125 years of Ag Society
2016 - A new Fair Board office was built by the MCI arts class
2016 - Home Craft Exhibits start back up
2016 - Car Show
2017 - Touch a Truck display
2018 - Car Show & Vehicle Burn out Contest
2019 - Touch a Truck display
2019 - Bull Bash was held with Bull Riders of Canada
2020 - The Virtual Fair is held due to Covid-19
2021 - North Norfolk Ag Poker run
2022- .....................who knows.............

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