Wednesday April 23, 2014




Event volunteers deserve pat on back

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It is the season of fall fairs across the Prairies.

Here in Yorkton Grain Millers Harvest Showdown celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Having arrived in the city just on the eve of the first show a quarter century ago I have seen the event evolve from its infancy.

In fact one of my earliest assignments with the then ‘Enterprise’ newspaper was to head to the fairgrounds and interview Yorkton Exhibition Association manager Shaun Morin. I found Shaun in the parking lot, a mallet in hand driving metal stakes into the asphalt as anchors for tents to be used to house stock at the first Showdown.

To launch a fall show in Yorkton was a rather daring endeavour for the YEA, and there were some growing pains through the early years.

But the Board of the YEA stayed the course. The show quickly established four elements which have remained as a foundation for the show.

On the agricultural side the commercial grain and cattle shows provided a place for area producers to exhibit their best.

The trade show became a natural bridge between business, agricultural and event goers.

And the rodeo was the entertainment highlight of the week.

Past the foundation events the Harvest Showdown line-up has been an adaptive one, taking on niche events which have come and gone with the ebb and flow of farm trends.

A commercial sheep sale was tried, but never gained the traction to be a long term event.

The arena floor was for a time home to a major llama show.

A herd bull alley brought purebred cattlemen to the show.

Through the changes Harvest Showdown has always been a showcase of local agriculture, and that is why the show is important.

Even in a time of instant connection via cellphones and the Internet, a place for like-minded people to come together and talk ‘shop’ is important.

For the farm sector in East Central Saskatchewan that place is Harvest Showdown.

Of course Yorkton’s show did have something of a template to follow.

Canadian Western Agribition launched in Regina in 1971 as a place to showcase western livestock genetics to the world.

For the first decade of Agribition I was there, still a boy, and in awe of the sheer scale of it. There were pigs and sheep and cattle from wall-to-wall.

Each new show seemed to introduce a new breed of cattle in an era when European exotic breeds were first crossing the ocean to forever change the North American beef sector.

Charolais, Limousin, Maine Anjou, Blonde d’Aquitaine, Chianina all arrived to much fanfare in the early years of Agribition.

The Regina-based event showed the west agriculture could draw crowds, and others would pop up as a result; Farmfair in Edmonton and AgEx in Brandon, along with the aforementioned Harvest Showdown.

The best of the west in agriculture emerged to large crowds of both local and international visitors.

And the shows of the west have their roots east too.

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto launched in 1922, and remains a major agricultural event in this country.

As grand as the first Agribition was to a boy of 11, taking a week off school, climbing aboard a train, and heading to the Royal when I was 12 remains one of my best memories. Toronto in 1972 was very different from anything a 12-year-old from Tisdale, SK., had ever experienced. The show itself so different with dairy goats, and flower shows, and rabbits.

The fall shows are something which are now part of the yearly routine for many in farming, but that is only because over the years people had a vision to promote agriculture, and they had the determination to make it work.

All those people working behind the scenes deserve a lot of credit for what they created and maintained.


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