The 74th annual North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo was bustling with happy families and visitors of all ages who were taking in the many sights and sounds of the fair over the Labour Day weekend.
Opening day on Sept. 2 kicked off with animal judging — of goats, poultry, sheep, beef, guinea pigs and rabbits — in the early morning, followed by the Laughing Loggers Youth Lumberjack Competition for kids aged 5 to 16.
The crazy, silly and souped-up lawn tractor races mowed there way around the rodeo arena until it was time for the much-anticipated Fall Fair parade. Residents and visitors lined the parade route, which wound its way through town with many people, cars, floats, trucks, trailers, and first responders displaying the theme of this year’s event, “Bee at the Fair”, in a creative and colourful array of bee-related costumes, flowers and decorations. Kids along the route were at the ready with their containers and bags to be filled with the candy tossed by parade participants. There was even the odd sprinkle and spray from the passing Barriere Fire Department truck.
The BC Rodeo Association “Polaris” Championship Rodeo Finals grand opening — featuring a flag team on horseback — was greeted with cheers and applause from the packed grandstands on either side of the arena.
Although the skies were a bit smoky due to nearby wildfires, it did not deter the eager crowds. Rodeo fans, families exploring some end of summer fun, animals lovers, and fun-seekers swarmed around the fairgrounds. There was definitely something for everyone to see and do, from demonstrations by log rollers, wood artists, axe throwers, and crafters to food trucks and a large selection of vendors. Uncle Chris the clown and other children’s entertainers drew laughter and fascinated “oohs” and “aahs” from onlookers.
Long line-ups at the food venues were well worth the wait, many said. Some favourites included shaved ice for the kids, ice cream and shakes, mini donuts, burgers, dogs, perogies, tacos and barbecue.
Heavy horse and light horse competitions were ongoing in the outdoor arenas, alongside the BC Rodeo Association provincial finals. Inside the Agriplex and exhibition halls there was sheep judging, 4-H groups, and judging of farm-raised birds and small animals, with many ribbons being awarded.
A “bouncy” fun park gave the kids a place to play, with a nearby craft and art station for those feeling creative. There was even a mechanical bull giving rides to kids who met the height restrictions, to see if they might like to try rodeo one day.
Volunteers were cheerfully at the ready to help and guide, and the atmosphere was filled with laughter, music, and animal sounds as onlookers crowded the benches, fences and bleachers. Headliner Jack Jackson, always a favourite performer, drew crowds to his shows daily in the centre stage outside, while Sunday evening’s cowboy concert was a sold-out evening of musical fun.
The last day of the 2023 Fall Fair and Rodeo didn’t disappoint, with Horses in Harness Team Driving and awards, a light horse show, Sheep Trim and Fit, and the Family Parade from Barriere Secondary School. Lawn Tractor races and Sheep Games followed. Mid-afternoon saw the BCRA Championship Rodeo Finals and trophy presentations, rewarding a year of hard work and making a memorable end to summer.
It was easy to lose count of how many times goodbyes were ended with “See you at the Fair next year!” And did someone say “Bee there or bee square?”