Mission’s Early Festivities
The annual Agricultural Fair was one of few community activities which took place in early Mission, and it generated a lot of buzz and excitement for its residents. The Agricultural Fair, more commonly known as the “Fall Fair”, was Mission’s longest running annual event. The Agricultural Association held the very first Fall Fair in 1894.
The festivities were held in various locations up until 1910. From then on it took place at Mission’s Fairgrounds (the site of the present-day Leisure Centre). Over the years, many other events also took place at the Fairgrounds, including May Day celebrations, Highland Games, and powwows hosted by the Mission Friendship Centre.
An Abundance of Attractions
Fair festivities varied from year to year, but early participants displayed everything imaginable; from homemade cakes and potted ferns, to collections of buttons and matchbooks. Sometimes festivities also included a parade, a beauty pageant or carnival rides. A popular 1941 attraction was Mr. Routledge’s train: a two-ton steam locomotive that ran on a two hundred yard track, and carried four children at a time. Later attractions included a dog show in 1972, and a casino in 1982.
The Fall Fair also hosted a wide variety of competitions. The first Fair Queen, Miss Annie Elliot, was crowned in 1925. Contests really got their surge in popularity by 1934, and fairgoers participated in competitive activities such as log chopping, Japanese wrestling, greased pole climbing, greased pig catching, and even pillow fights.
The Agricultural Fair saw the whole of the twentieth century, and reflected many of its most notable events. The Agricultural Association chose not to cancel the festivities during WWI, though many surrounding areas chose to cancel theirs. In 1931, during the Great Depression, admission was lowered to twenty-five cents.
Canada was at war again by 1940, and the Fair Board decided to substitute war savings stamps for fifty percent of all prize money. In June 1948, Mission was hit by another devastating flood, and special prize categories were held that year for farmers whose property had been under water for part of the growing season.
The End of an Era
After staging the event for seventy-three consecutive years, the Mission Agricultural Association had to postpone the festivities due to lack of funds in 1968, following a close vote by the association’s membership. In 1985, the event was moved to the summer season and was renamed Mission Summer Fair. This was likely due to a decline in agricultural production in the area.
The very last fair was held in 1999, which was permanently cancelled in part due to the declining membership of the Agricultural Association. The final fair marked more than one hundred years of annual festivities in the Mission community.