"Fairs are living reflections of the life and times around them, rooted in agriculture and volunteer-driven. They hold deep cultural, traditional and emotional connections to the people of their local area and define a sense of community that grows social capital and quality of life. Fair organizations positively impact their communities through the events they plan, the assets they hold and the traditions and values they nurture." - Canadian Association of Fairs and exhibitions.
On February 16, The Western Development Museum celebrated Heritage Day's 2014 theme of "Have Fun with Heritage: Historic Places Made for Play" with a retrospective of the Yorkton Exhibition and a tribute to one of the area's most colourful families.
The exhibition and it's associated events, the Spring Expo and Harvest Showdown are, of course, central to the city's identity. Despite rocky periods including financial difficulties, two world wars and natural (and not so natural) disasters, the Yorkton Exhibition is proud to be one of the few local fairs that has run continuously since its inception in 1883.
The presentation by Carla Madsen, WDM special events programmer covered all the highs and lows of the fairs 130 years with fascinating anecdotes provided by Sheila Harris, a long time volunteer and Terri Prince Lefebrve, the City's historian.
A second presentation featured the fascinating story of Nicholas P. Lew'chuk. Lew'Chuk emigrated from Ukraine in 1902 as a child.His family settled near Canora. Over his 93 years Nicholas would be known for many things (teacher, photographer, taxidermist, printer, record producer, businessman, builder, magician, performer, inventor, magazine publisher, baker) but he is perhaps best remembered for his travelling Lew'Chuk's Midway and Shows, which later became the Canora Fun Spot.
The midway featured a magic and variety show, rides (some of which Nicholas invented himself), a wild animals exhibit, a freaks and wonders of nature exhibit, games of skill and a concession stand.
It was a family affair, with Nicholas' wife Nellie and eight children all involved. The show was on the road all over the country during summers from the early 1940s to 1968 when Nellie passed away and the kids were moving on to their own lives.
"It was an interesting life," Orest Lewchuk, one of Nicholas' sons who was on hand for the presentation, said simply.
Nicholas continued to run the midway as Canora Fun Spot in the family back yard until 1987.