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2019 Convention

At the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel & Suites and Conference Centre

See you Feb. 14-16, 2019

Please Contact

Kathryn Lambert,

Convention Administrator

email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Phone: 519-287-3553

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Year-Round Homecraft Duties

  • look throughout the year to find people to volunteer to do displays
  • work on display materials and props throughout the year
  • “tweek” & improve prize lists
  • provide workshops for baking, canning and educate about the rules of exhibiting
  • fundraise – workshops, dinners, crafters weekend, sell space to work on own crafts during fair, barbeques at local supermarket, raffles/auctions

Maintaining Rural Roots in an Urban Driven Society

  • education – petting farm, corn box, farm toys
  • “Roots of Bruce” – grade 6 kids bussed to Walkerton, commodity groups & Ag Society sponsor buses
  • livestock shows
  • sponsor farmers’ market – must become member, have fair name on their ads
  • school show
  • have grade 3 & 4 classes present during judging to see how to do it
  • do small Jr. prize book
  • have stations on grounds including entertainment
  • funnel classes through tent with a grocery store set up
  • use passport to get them around - use pictures of objects or president for points
  • use “Traveling Charlie” pictures in various places for prizes
  • develop urban programs – art class, photographic class, country store
  • ethnic community missing
  • hold special tour for families
  • encourage people to come earlier with a 2-stage admission – earlier is cheaper
  • include school programs
  • have youth groups, i.e. Scouts, skating & sports clubs, work at fair
  • use target advertising
  • have affordable youth programs
  • youth is door to ethnic community, “bedroom” citizens
  • youth is reason for families to get involved
  • have main entrance at agricultural awareness area
  • promote activity that will be available at another event
  • it’s a mobile society now
  • challenge rural, urban and businesses to promote the fair

Bio-Security with Live Animals

  • use wash stations at entrances & exits
  • have signs and friendly verbal reminders
  • have recommendation for manure disposal in a contained area
  • use foot bleaching pan with fake carpet
  • have vet “on call” or on-site day of fair
  • have tarp available for animal in distress
  • no food allowed in livestock area – no visible eating
  • appoint someone to make sure hand wash stations are operational
  • pet shows – require proof of vaccination, deworming, tags – do you check?
  • have animals on leash and/or muzzled
  • have animals under control at all times
  • bio-security info package available from OMFRA
  • take photos of signs & hand wash stations, with correct date stamp, so you can prove “due diligence”
  • have a farm animal display NOT a petting farm – serious insurance implications
  • disinfect barns before use

Ideas for District Meetings

  • each fair does a display
  • use church sanctuary to display
  • idol winners as entertainment
  • spring meeting very casual, usually 2 people from each fair
  • have meeting in evening
  • have round table discussions, i.e. security, gates, “hot button” topics
  • quick sharing of ideas – 5 second discussions
  • have demonstrations – card making, chocolate making, maple candy making
  • speaker suggestions – local historians, safety at fair, social media, volunteer recruitment, local teacher on how to get kids on board
  • invite ambassadors
  • food – soup & salad, local fare
  • use agenda
  • keep things moving, maintain interest
  • fund raising – loonie auction, penny sale, silent auction
  • have door prizes, coupons from local merchants
  • keep it social to keep from being boring
  • share ideas, what works, compare notes, share resources

Keeping Agriculture Alive at Small Fairs

  • use passport system – stamp at every destination, prizes
  • Ag Awareness – live animals, sheep hearing, milking, bees, egg incubator
  • better signage, info board maybe at gate, times and events
  • keep up with technology – bar codes for smart phones to find out what & where
  • maintain 4-H shows
  • develop breed shows
  • have western horse show
  • use Agriculture in the Classroom program
  • have ag awareness tent
  • ambassadors go to schools
  • include goat, alpaca, llama shows
  • have Heritage Day for schools
  • petting farm
  • have surveys on lap top computers
  • use niche farmers and commodity boards to set up/send demonstration/displays
  • have OAAS as a resource to find exhibitors that will travel to your fair
  • have pedal tractor pull
  • potato peeling contest
  • find the popsicle stick in the hay bale or use small “give aways” from commodity groups

Entertainment Under $500

  • local entertainers – music, clowns, face-painting
  • talent show – all varieties, all ages
  • get sponsors for more expensive acts
  • cake wheel – donated cakes and “roulette” wheel
  • corn box – corn donated by feed mill, farm toys
  • fun dog show
  • cake decorating contest by dignitaries of fair, municipal council, etc.
  • pet show
  • obstacle course of hay bales
  • “backseat driver” – blindfolded drive on golf cart
  • air band or battle of the bands competition
  • “fashion show” – men in ladies’ clothing, etc.
  • “best legs” contest – put people behind sheet and show only legs
  • testing competition
  • “Deal or No Deal” competition
  • “Win It In A Minute”
  • outhouse race
  • human truck pull
  • bale throwing, big bale rolling, farmers’ Olympics
  • turtle/frog races – competitor supplies animal
  • cake walks – spin wheel for toonie and win donated cakes
  • baby show
  • auctions – pies made by ambassador contestants, other “celebrities”
  • lawnmower races

Midway & Vendor Issues

  • most have a midway and work on a percentage basis
  • have a good relationship between midway and fairs
  • more than 1 person should have contact & know what is going on as some fairs have experienced their knowledge of contacts, midways, verbal agreements leaving when their director or president leaves
  • there are verbal agreements
  • things to consider - date
  • flexibility of date
  • hydro requirements for midway & vendors
  • rides appropriate for crowd
  • selling prearranged ticket sales, non-refundable a good idea 4
  • vendors - midway contracts may have restrictions in contracts, i.e. food, no similar products, watch contracts
  • some midways and fairs have conflicts in this area
  • watch for non-licensed stuff being sold (knock-offs), be proactive
  • space prices – outside and inside space rental varies low to high
  • must consider length of fair, economics, location, size of booth, type of venue, i.e. farmers’ market special event, fair
  • - problems – vendors don’ want to pay if they lose money – should get payment up front deposit, non-refundable option
  • midways usually charge higher prices to the vendors than the fair
  • smaller community vendors don’t or can’t afford insurance
  • contracts can have confidentiality and hence can’t speak openly and network with others

Where Does Homecraft Fit In Today?

  • changing and fitting into modern times
  • senior people with fewer younger to assist and participate
  • use the Jr. section to encourage participation
  • demonstrations of new techniques
  • examine your prize books and keep them up-to-date
  • change judges every 2 years
  • educate the public
  • laminate your rules for each section and post them at the fair for the public to see
  • communicate
  • assist
  • encourage
  • follow the rules
  • “It’s always the Directors who win the prizes”
  • have grade school in to view the judging process
  • no young exhibitors
  • bring in modern recipes – incorporate ready mixes
  • healthy eating products
  • encourage youth to assist with entries
  • have next year’s prize list ready when fair day is here
  • junior fair prize list sent to schools
  • school visits during judging
  • nearly finished article
  • first time exhibitor
  • senior’s exhibits
  • group display open to any group family award section – points toward plaque award
  • Juniors show in Senior section with paid membership
  • sewing and quilting are dieing
  • change wording and make sections more general, i.e. pj’s change to leisure wear
  • change of economy, i.e. out of work
  • update with times, i.e. long arm quilting over hand-quilting
  • purchase item and then decorate item, i.e. b-b-q apron decorated
  • judge on appearance as opposed to made from scratch
  • taking exhibits in before night
  • get other fair books for new ideas
  • have teach on board to give ideas and sit on board
  • difficulties with school boards for participation with school work
  • some school boards do work with fairs
  • go to daycares for exhibits
  • ribbons for kids, some give out money
  • keep ribbons from exhibits, others return for recycling
  • samples with exhibits
  • only show quilts one year
  • Girl Guides do tied quilts
  • show Grandma’s quilt from storage
  • Memory Lane – doilies, tatted item, quilts
  • signature quilt on display for memories
  • modern, i.e machine embroidery, photo quilt, machine quilting
  • quilt exhibits are down because older people are not doing them
  • if there is no Homecraft, there is no fair
  • exhibits show 1 and 2 years
  • new every year in Jr. division
  • change hall location to increase exhibits
  • go to quilt shops with advance class list
  • give $24 to $30 for 1st prize quilts
  • prize for youngest exhibitor
  • exhibits not picked up at end of fair
  • culinary – no refrigeration
  • some longer fairs only display 1 slice
  • canning section judge for display only, not open for tasting
  • ugliest cake made by a kid, but edible
  • limit size on art work
  • block challenge in spring – 2 year to make quilt then raffle draw
  • memorial section for cancer quilt
  • “touch quilts” judged then donated
  • increase digital photography
  • youth exhibiting in adult class/section
  • scrap booking is increasing
  • 25-year-old items display
  • fairs still have 2 divisions, i.e. ag and homecraft

How Can a Fair Survive on a Small Budget?

  • ask Chamber of Commerce to sponsor
  • use local entertainment
  • “scarecrows” wander grounds entertaining – have sponsors names on scarecrows, possibly use members dressed up
  • start 4-H poultry club
  • increase signage using sponsors’ names – put signs in prominent places
  • hand out brochures in stores, malls, etc. with highlights of fair
  • get schools involved
  • reduce length of fair
  • encourage Ambassdor program – brings families together
  • have “Homecoming Weekend”
  • have displays of livestock instead of competitions
  • use model cow from Dairy Farmers of Ontario (free)
  • rent facility for winter storage
  • make your fair fit into the community (size)
  • have 4-H look after a program for tiny tots
  • steal ideas from other fairs J
  • fill plastic swimming pool with balls or corn for play area
  • “Mine for Gold” – prizes in corn, blindfold participants, scoop corn looking for prizes
  • encourage teens to get credit hours volunteering at fair
  • ask children what they would like to have at fair
  • go to schools & demonstrate an article from prize list to encourage exhibitors
  • keep ambassadors involved throughout the year
  • have past ambassadors run talent section of next year’s ambassador program

Making Big Changes to Your Fair’s Traditional Schedule of Events

  • midway-like fun ground
  • location of drive ways
  • buildings around outside area
  • own grounds/municipality
  • everyone has to own/buy into changes and benefits of changes
  • advertise the change – get the changes out there
  • moving vendors to different space – different layout
  • bring ideas for youth – change around
  • know your audience
  • have a company/person come in and assess your buildings/grounds – what is best for what
  • utilize all of the grounds
  • make one change at a time – add new building, change building exhibits are in, pave parking lot
  • getting people to the fair – directions, signage
  • bring in something new to replace something old
  • move placement of events around
  • most boards have committees set up to handle separate parts of the fair
  • how do you manage change with “long standing directors”
  • can’t get people to try something different
  • what are people changing?
  • diverse board helps to get discussion moving
  • best ideas on last night of fair – relaxed, flexible
  • brainstorming at convention then report back to Board
  • big changes get put in front of Director/members
  • get Directors on side before meeting to see where everyone sits
  • Directors get “sick” of doing the same thing every year, public wants new attractions
  • how do you tell people about a change? - advertise, signs at gates, social media, focus on new stuff, try to have something new every year
  • hard with midways – same rides, other midways try something new
  • front office program through OMAFRA – get another fair to give a fresh perspective
  • director switch – switch portfolios to give new perspective on Board
  • to make a change – float new idea to gauge the Board, gather input/feedback, get “buy-in” from key people, risk assessment/economic impact, formal proposal to Board and vote
  • being stricter with insurance/abiding by others rules – need to be strict with exhibitors to get them to abide by rules/insurance; hold back prize money, if needed; be firm; include in entry forms and then enforce
  • what constitutes schedule?
  • what new events can we try?
  • who decides on changes – executive or general membership?
  • use signage effectively to communicate change
  • advertise changes to preserve traditional audience
  • involve participants and performers in changes
  • consider your competition when booking entertainment or events
  • make sure your volunteers understand changes
  • introduce variety of entertainment
  • integrate with local businesses – introduce things like coupon booklets for local companies
  • where do you find new events? trade show, conventions, local festivals
  • is it worth introducing social media to try to draw teenagers and younger children? How about games for young children?
  • add a parade
  • focus on young children (10-12) not so much teenagers
  • what draws children and young families?
  • offer a prize to kids for visiting stations at the fair (get stamps)
  • bow out when passion ebbs
  • make gradual changes moving forward to open eyes of older members
  • fair needs a vision
  • have each director mentor someone
  • if you don’t have a vision for the future you are waiting to close
  • there is seed money available for Farmers’ Markets
  • identify skills missing from board, i.e. farmer, retail person, financial, manager, etc.

Ideas to Celebrate Fair

  • 160th - had old steam engines
  • did mini-steam show
  • antique steam show
  • Breakfast Club – group of old guys drive tractors to coffee club
  • 100th - big supper, invited all directors/secretaries, past & present
  • 150th - special theme
  • Director milestones 
  • volunteer milestones
  • have them open the fair
  • invite all ambassadors/queens from past, reunion
  • quilt - everyone does a block
  • produce a cook book
  • Christmas float in parade
  • build up to milestone, build an atmosphere
  • antique tractor show, need someone passionate to take the lead
  • 50 years working gate – gave golden money apron
  • years of service – make sure to award people
  • start early, don’t plan last minute
  • think 50th birthday party - stroll down memory lane, celebrate fair at fair
  • get heritage agencies involved
  • show old videos of fair
  • build up through advertising, media, “Remember When”
  • do something every month during special year
  • do a BIG event with big names – make sure you can cover the cost
  • hook up with township/municipality

Importance of Accurate Directions to Your Fair

  • signage – flashing neon
  • highway signage restrictions
  • volunteers to put up signs
  • use transport trucks to advertise
  • use year-round signs and/or day of fair
  • yard displays to advertise – on side of barns
  • signage for trucks and trailers – travel & livestock
  • signage must be simple- more pictures than words
  • signage within fair grounds needs to be clear
  • try not to use private roads and land for fair use
  • signage for weather conditions
  • signage to deal with emergency traffic
  • need postal code in address
  • need phone number for contact person
  • use emergency number in address to grounds
  • need to be GPS friendly
  • include contact info of who to call to exhibit

How to Get Youth to Volunteer

  • Jr. Director program – age 13-25, assistant to other Directors, nominated to position by someone willing to vouch for them
  • Ambassador program – not just winner, social aspect, allowed to bring friends
  • be specific – time expected
  • Jr. Board – don’t treat like children
  • ask them to rise to the occasion
  • teach them to respect the history of the fair
  • get them to build “apps” for your fair
  • allow them to “be in touch” because technology allows for it
  • check what areas are needed for your fair
  • ask youth what entertainment would attract them
  • ask youth exhibitors what is missing
  • contact high schools for community service hours
  • tell people that help is needed
  • present it as a fun thing
  • get Directors to delegate more – good managers learn to delegate
  • Facebook stories
  • ask at school if there is anyone to do photography for the fair
  • promote volunteer experience – teaches skills, planning, organization
  • provide free lunches for work – find donors of food from within community, i.e. pizza
  • Jr. Directors vote after age 18, become Sr. Director after age 25
  • website connection – apply to volunteer space
  • use person who just needs community service hours in a different way – with an overseer
  • most will come back
  • not all know how to join
  • start a Jr. Director program – ages 14-18 or 10-21, vote at age 18
  • approach 4-H club
  • approach those who have put entries in
  • provide transportation to meeting, if necessary
  • have their input validated at meetings
  • make sure their feel appreciated
  • treat them as equal
  • nominate them back on the committee on a yearly basis – nominate at AGM
  • social media drawing kids
  • have a Facebook page for kid/teens
  • stress community hours will be provided
  • put a column in paper for volunteering, with community hours as their reward
  • contact district school board, have info sent to local schools
  • approach home school groups
  • PRAISE! PRAISE! PRAISE!
  • have them come up with ideas for agenda topics
  • give them a project that they are responsible for
  • have an education day at your fair – involve classes from schools, have them bused in
  • have daycare groups come for day
  • need to have schools work with the fair board
  • put a newspaper blurb for volunteer positions available – do different ones each month, thanking those who have already volunteered from the previous month’s list
  • have Mark Beaven lobby the Ag Minister to put Ag programs back in the schools
  • work with the youth
  • give vouchers for free
  • have the youth do maintenance on the grounds, give them food vouchers for the fair
  • contact fast food places for coupons/vouchers to reward youth for their work at the fair
  • contact home school conventions, church youth groups, cadets, Shriners’ groups, Scouts