Saanich Fair this weekend

Plenty to see and do once you get by the entry gates at the Saanich Fairgrounds

The main stage is one of the Saanich Fair’s hubs of activity.

At the entrance to the Saanich Fair this Labour Day long weekend, visitors will have two options — to the right, the Rotary Club games of chance and the West Coast Amusements Midway rides — to the left, some 5,000 exhibits people have entered in the many fair categories.

This is only the beginning of the festivities, much of which are free once people get past the entry gates.

The 146th annual Saanich Fair starts Saturday, Aug. 31 and runs all weekend, wrapping up after 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2. Event organizer Gloria Dol says the fair is western Canada’s oldest continuous agricultural fair and attracts people from all over Vancouver Island.

“It all started off with 10 farmers in a field in Saanichton,” Dol said. “It continued to grow and by 1992 the fair had moved to new grounds and tents at our current site along Stelly’s X Road in Central Saanich.”

Over the years, the site grew and new buildings were erected. Dol said an agri-plex was added and the society that runs the event spent $200,000 for a new equestrian ring. All the money they used are proceeds from the fair itself. It’s these facilities that attract horse owners from up and down the Island — the Hunter Jumpers, Arabians and mini horses and the many 4-H horse clubs.

In addition to the equine participants, there are a total of 27 different types of animals on site this weekend, said Dol, adding there will be 5,000 exhibits on display and to be judged in various disciplines: needle arts, vegetables, junior (age three to 16) entries in arts, photography and more, as well as woodworking and crafts.

But wait — there’s more. Much more. There will be 17 food concessions on the grounds, including a new Chinese food booth this year.

“Unique to the fair this year,” Dol continued, “all of the concession workers are volunteers for their respective service group. All of the funds they raise go right back to that group.”

Another 28 added attractions are available — from face painting and a pirate school, to a direct farm market and donkey quiz games. Most, if not all, of the booths and exhibits in the main area of the fair are free, Dol said. The only cost comes when people wish to eat or if they visit the Rotary games and midway areas.

Throughout the weekend, the Saanich Fair keeps the entertainment coming on its main stage, featuring local bands, magic shows and other performers. Headlining this year’s fair are Shaky Ground and That ‘70s Band.

Dol added they are still running five eating contests — pie, spam, cupcakes, watermelon and ice cream — which are often crowd favourites.

The Saanich Fair opens to the public at 8 a.m. on Saturday. Be sure to pick up a fair program when you arrive, or visit www.saanichfair.ca, for a full schedule of events.