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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

166th Harrow Fair cancelled for 2020

- Fun Fest previously cancelled -

by Sylene Argent

Two of Essex’s largest fairs, the Essex Fun Fest and the Harrow Fair, have been cancelled for this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  On Saturday, the Harrow & Colchester South Agricultural Society stated it would cancel its 2020 Harrow Fair event, which was to take place over the upcoming Labour Day Weekend – September 3 through 6 – due to the “government’s declaration of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty surrounding social gatherings in the future,” the post on social media noted.

  A news release on the issue from Ed Gibbs, President of the Harrow & Colchester South Agricultural Society, notes the Fair Board will be forever grateful for the sacrifices frontline workers are making, and they are “unwilling to put those sacrifices at risk by believing current restrictions will be lessened sufficiently within the next 100 days to hold the 166th presentation of the Harrow Fair in September 2020 as originally planned.”

  The statement continues it would be unreasonable to ask judges to taste and touch hundreds of entries so soon after this experience, and to require volunteers to attend the gates, collect garbage, and coordinate activities. “Plexiglass barriers, masks, and arrows directing the flow of the crowd are just not conducive to a fair atmosphere. There is too much to see and do at the Harrow Fair to put these types of restrictions in place.”

  The Board members didn’t like the idea of having to cancel the annual Fair, Gibbs said, but felt it was necessary to do in the interest of public safety during the uncertainty during the Coronavirus emergency.

  Gibbs believes this is the first time in the local Fair’s history the annual event has been cancelled.

  The saddest part of having to cancel the Harrow Fair is knowing what the event puts back into the community every year. The Harrow Fair, he said, generates a lot of dollars, but the Harrow & Colchester South Agricultural Society doesn’t keep most of those funds. The Fair’s partners – a variety of service clubs from Harrow, such as the Kinsmen, Knights of Columbus, Rotary, and Scouts raise dollars during the event. Each of these service clubs play a role in the Fair, from manning entrances to picking up cans, and raise funds for their own operations by doing so. The money raised all goes back into the community through their programs and projects.

  “The trickledown effect is tremendous,” Gibbs said.

  The Harrow Fair is also a big contributor to the John McGivney Children’s Centre through its annual Pie Auction. Last year’s tasty fundraiser raised $32,210 for the local organization, and $21,895, in 2018.

  The Essex County 4-H Club will also lose the opportunity to show or auction off the animals they raised through their respective clubs at the fair, and the weekend where many of its clubs hosted achievement days.

  The Harrow Fair’s many volunteers were well into planning the 2020 event before the decision was made to cancel. “We started before last year’s Fair even ended,” Gibbs noted, adding features, such as the entertainment, tractor-pulls, and lawnmower races, were already booked.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy, who represents Harrow on Essex Council, was saddened to learn the Harrow Fair would not take part this year, but knows it was a very difficult decision for the Fair Board to make. “And it was a decision they didn’t make lightly. I stand by their decision. I think the community understands. It is just such a big fair with people coming into Harrow from all over.”

  The annual Fair offers an opportunity for individuals and families, who do not have farming roots, to learn about Harrow’s rich agricultural history and about farm operations.

The Harrow & Colchester South Agricultural Society will continue to make arrangements for next year’s Harrow Fair. Bondy believes it is smart for the Fair Board to focus energy on next year’s event. She also recognized the impact the annual fair has on the community, by providing service clubs a chance to raise funds for community-orientated projects.

    The Harrow Fair is not the only big, annual event within the Municipality of Essex that has been cancelled for this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the May 3 regular meeting, Essex Council approved the Essex Fun Fest Committee’s recommendation to cancel this year’s four-day event, which was scheduled to take place from July 2-5, at the Essex Centre Sports Complex grounds.

  During this meeting, Mayor Larry Snively said, “That’s a sad day for us, I can say that.”

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