Western Fair: The Decline?


Every city or town has an fair, festival or event that happens on an annual basis and most people have had the opportunity to attend one of them at some point in their life. Whether it is the well-known Ex in Toronto, the Western Fair in London, Ontario, the annual fair in Woodstock, Ontario, or the Bean Festival in Zurich, Ontario, each offers some type of excitement and fun for children and adults alike.

Here in London we have the Western Fair which has been in operation for roughly 140 years. Since its first year of operation in 1868 it has changed a great deal over the past century and a half, from being a traditional farmers market and fair, to what we know today with over-priced rides and games.

Over the past 10 years I have seen the Western Fair in London go downhill, as many things have here in the Forest City. Each year there is less and less to enjoy at the fair, in terms of entertainment, rides, food vendors, or merchants selling and displaying their items.

I had the opportunity to work at the fair a number of years in a row, holding various positions each year. During those years I was able to have an up-close view of how the fair operated and was able to easily identify the changes from year to year. Now that I no long work there I see the fair with a different perspective although I still carry the same knowledge that I did when employed there.

So what has happened to the fair to constitute it going downhill? To begin, things have become more spread out. As the Western Fair Association continually acquires new lands around the existing properties it owns, it must continue to fill these properties with attractions for the 10 days of the fair. Normally, good business sense would tell someone to fill these new spaces with more attractions. However, in the case of the Western Fair it has simply spread its existing attractions over a larger area, and in many cases it has fewer attractions from year to year to distribute.

Each year I find that there are fewer rides, fewer attractions and fewer vendors to fill the buildings that the fair has to utilize. Things become less compact in an attempt to cover up the fact that there are actually fewer things to do at the fair.

When I was a child I went to the fair to go on the rides, play games, have a bit to eat and to see how much free “crap” that we could get. Those days are all but gone and I have a hard time justifying going to the fair when I am not going to get anything out of it. Although I am aware of inflation, increasing market prices and commercial consumerism, I strongly believe that the fair has become unaffordable for the normal everyday person (and their family).

These days, to have a go on a single 2 minute ride a person must pay upwards of $4.00+ for this “cheap thrill”. This price tag seems a little much to me for a ride on a piece of metal that continually goes in circles.

Many of the long-time food vendors have been removed and been replaced with LCD TV screens and now the food that I enjoyed time after time is no more.

Most of the buildings that were once full of unique vendors offering varying services and products are no longer full. Sure there are vendors but not the number that use to be there.

The things that the fair once had going for it no longer exit. The attitude towards the fair and what it offers the people of the communities it serves has changed so dramatically over the past 10 years that one might wonder where it will be in the coming years. In my opinion, if the fair continues to operate the way it has been in the coming years, there will be nothing left of the 10-day experience. Each year, the Western Fair Association complains that attendance is not at the level it should be. Many times they try and blame it on the weather, when perhaps they should open their eyes and look at the real cause: its operation, and what it has to offer.

The Western Fair Association has focused its time and attention in recent years to supporting the gambling addiction that many people have. Expanding race track betting, simulcast, constantly building upon the slot machines; all of these things have drawn attention and resources away from the annual fair. Although I am well aware that the 10-day Western Fair may not be a priority for the Association, I would think that if they still want it to be a significant revenue generator that they would put more effort into it – or they might as well just end it altogether.

In my honest opinion, I can see the annual week-long fair no longer existing in 10 years from now. Instead, the Western Fair will be the gambling centre of London, a full-scale casino, more horse racing… perhaps they will even have betting for municipal, provincial and federal elections.

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One Response to “Western Fair: The Decline?”

  1. John Leschinski Says:

    I went twice this year. The second time only becuase my girlfriends friend bailed on her. I got a snazzy belt, and sat in a fighter jet, but other then that I was bored out of my mind.

    The livestock and birds of prey were interesting, but the Lizzard attraction was severely lacking. I didn’t waste my money on the rides or food either, as it’s way to expensive.

    But I expected as much from last year’s experiance. Everyone talked up how great it was, and it must have been at one point, but it isn’t worth $10 admission and $7 parking.

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