Lack of interest means no more Mount Forest Fall Fair
MOUNT FOREST - The Mount Forest Fall Fair, and the agricultural society that ran it, are no more.
Council approved the Mount Forest Agricultural Society’s letter of cancellation during their regular meeting on Monday.
“The Mount Forest Agricultural Society held its annual meeting (in January). The future of fair was discussed,” said a letter to council. “Due to a lack of interest, we may have to dissolve the Society. It was decided to advertise (for more volunteers)…(but) since there wasn't further interest the board decided to dissolve.”
Mayor Andy Lennox said that the fall fair is henceforth finished “unless someone else does something about it.”
“It certainly is sad to see the end of a very long era with the Mount Forest Agricultural Society but we understand the position that they’re in,” said Lennox, during the meeting. “I look forward to what we can dream up to utilize the resources.”
John McPhee, the society’s former chair, said Mount Forest’s fall fair “got smaller every time.”
“We had a couple of meetings but no one showed up,” said McPhee. “It’s frustrating because I’ve been involved with the fair for a long time.”
The agricultural society first signed its contract with the town in March 1996.
McPhee also pointed to the lack of support from the area's large Mennonite population saying they’re going to attend meetings, then not coming or participating in the final event.
“Last year, it was tough to get help,” said McPhee. “And (the Mennonites) say they're going to come over and help and then they don't … it's very frustrating.”
Staff were also directed to develop a plan related to the future use of the site and its associated structures; two barns, bleachers, and an announcer stand.
Coun. Sherry Burke was clear that she wants the land to still be used as community space.
“I know the Agricultural Society has been struggling for a few years now but it’s always sad to see those kinds of associations disband,” said Burke. “I’m sad to see this happen and I look forward to the recommendations as to what can be done with the hopes…that it can still be some kind of community space.”
Coun. Penny Renken agreed with Burke.
“I think this land should still belong and be enjoyed by the public,“ said Renken. “If we can make use of it somehow rather than sell it off.”
According to the report, in the notice of termination, the agricultural society has requested that an auction company be permitted to utilize the buildings.
According to the report, charging the auction company to use the buildings would limit the municipality’s use of the facilities for storage of equipment, as “the building would need to be vacant.”
“I can’t see doing anything else with (the land) except for using it as storage…for our municipal equipment,” said Coun. Steve McCabe. “I’m not really in favour of sourcing this out to one particular company … I’d rather it be for municipal use only.”
When the municipality obtains ownership of a building, they are not able to offer free use of the buildings as it would be considered “bonusing” and is prohibited under Section 106 of the municipal act.
“The barn is a very good building for (auctioning), I've looked after it for years,” said McPhee. “In the wintertime, we do some storage, but then when (you consider the liability) and stuff, it's a very frustrating deal.”
The 2024 budget will need to reflect an insurance premium of approximately $2,500.00 for coverage of the buildings.
Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.
Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com