Provincial government supporting fall fairs cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic
PARIS -- Hundreds of fall fairs across Ontario have been forced to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The province is stepping up to help agricultural and horticultural societies deal with financial losses from those cancellations.
This year will be the first time in more than 75 years that the Sayles family won't take part in the Paris Fall Fair.
Typically, they'd be busy getting their cattle groomed and trained for the season.
"Probably for a month before, we're training cows, making sure they lead and are clean," said Erica Sayles at Bridon Farms.
But this year, there aren't any fairs to prepare for.
"I was disappointed, of course," Sayles said. "I think a lot of people were."
More than 175 fairs in Ontario won't go ahead this year because of the pandemic.
"We have somewhere in the neighbourhood of 50,000 people come through our gates here and that just was not going to happen this year," said Ross Miller with the Paris Agricultural Society.
It's put a financial strain on agricultural societies relying on fall fairs for most of their income.
"In order to keep things going, we've looked at other ways of funding," Miller said.
Last week, the provincial government said it would provide nearly $1 million to the societies forced to cancel their fall activities. In the past, organizations would only receive funding from the province if they hosted a fair. This year, the eligibility is expanded.
"However, at this point, we don't have enough information to know how much we will get and don't know when," said Beth Schlueter with the Wellesley Agricultural Society.
She added any money from the province will be helpful.
"We are not gone permanently," she said. "We are coming back next year, so with that in mind we have things that cost us a little bit of money."
Competitors are looking forward to getting back onto the show circuit next year.