PORT ELGIN, NB – The annual Port Elgin Exhibition kicks off tomorrow, Aug. 15, and will run until Sunday, Aug. 18 at the exhibition grounds in the village, sponsored by the Botsford and Westmorland Agricultural Society.
The event has a long and proud history, the first being held in September, 1849 at Oulton’s Corner, with exhibits being placed along the sides of the road. One of the first of its kind in the province, the Botsford and Westmorland Agricultural Society was incorporated in 1850; in the 1920's it boasted more than 200 members. At that time the exhibition grounds were cleared and graded, a fence erected and judges’ stand, grandstand and stables built.
Various exhibition categories at that time included stumping and ploughing of land, chopping and clearing of upland, ploughing and draining of land, and the preparation of compost (made of sea or swamp mud and barn manure). Livestock and horses were also included in the judging, as well as sheep, swine and poultry; ploughing matches were introduced in 1852 and continued for many years.
Over the years the competition grew to include agricultural and horticultural products: vegetables, fruit, grains, honey and bee products, home canned vegetables, fruits and preserves as well as domestic fancy work such as embroidery, knitting, crocheting and quilts. One popular category was the best two articles made from cotton flour bags.
The September 17, 1948 edition of the Sackville Tribune-Post noted the 99th annual exhibition had just concluded, coinciding with the opening of the new Regional Memorial School in Port Elgin.
“The fair was officially opened on Wednesday afternoon by Hon. A.C. Taylor, Minister of Agriculture for New Brunswick… Mr. Taylor congratulated the exhibitors and offered them his full support along with this experienced advice. He commended the vegetable exhibits but urged that an effort be made to achieve more uniformity.
He noted a big improvement in the quality and numbers of the dairy cattle entries, but observed that they should be in better shape, cleaned and trimmed up better for exhibition purposes... He stressed the value of agricultural exhibitions for their friendly competition. The judging of livestock and farm produce gives the farmer a chance to measure his work and gives him an incentive to improve his stock...
The time has come, Mr. Taylor said, when everyone recognizes the importance of agriculture.
‘We should produce more and more of the things we can produce economically in this section of the country,’ he said.
The large hand made quilts on exhibition won the admiration of the many spectators…two interesting displays attracted widespread attention on the second floor of the main exhibition building. A display of ‘Everlasting Brand’ blankets in various colors and patterns was effectively presented by the Copp Woollen Mills. The second display, presented by Mr. Lyman Ward showed bottled and packaged honey along with samples of the honeycomb and the beehive.
The annual exhibition flourished, never missing a year, until 1954, when the Society was discontinued and the exhibition became only a memory. In 1994 the newly re-formed agricultural society sponsored the first exhibition in 40 years, with support from the greater community. However, the last few years have once again seen a decline of interest in agricultural pursuits. Organizers hope to see a turn-around in this trend, at this year’s four-day event.
For more information on the 2013 Port Elgin Exhibition check out the schedule online at http://portelginnbexhibition.simplesite.com/ or pick up a program, available at many local stores.
NOTE: All entries in the garden vegetables, ornamental plants and flowers, home baking and preserves or home crafts competitions must be brought to the exhibition building by 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 14. Judging will take place on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 9 a.m.