It may have been a few years since the family piled into the car, kids jittery with thoughts of caramel apples while racing towards midway rides, and the adults hatching a plan to educate everyone on growing fruits and veggies, or seeing if anyone they know won a first-place ribbon for anything from handicrafts to giant onions to photography…but all of this fun is within a day trip from Penticton.
Throughout the late spring and into early autumn, the latter being prime fall fair season, numerous events — take note of the handy calendar from the BC Association of Agricultural Fairs and Exhibitions — take place within a short drive or an overnight adventure from the South Okanagan.
Some fairs are large, some are small. Some have rodeos, some have loggers performing tricks, and a handful have unique contests. Goat milking. Lawnmower racing. Rooster crowing.
Indeed, there is something for everyone, and hopefully a lesson or two to be learned from the principles of 4-H and the importance of supporting local growers, producers, and vendors, with many fairs promoting the mantra of Buy BC. These are the people who grown or raise just about everything on your table, after all.
Within a couple of hours, you’ll find the Grand Forks Fall Fair en route east to the Kootenay region, but an easy return on the same day after exploring the displays. Find the winning preserves or pickles, and artistically-intricate pies. If you miss this one, Rock Creek (population less than 1000), welcomes around 15,000 visitors to its fairgrounds over an autumn weekend and is a regional “must do” in September, a leisurely drive past Osoyoos.
For an overnight trip, the friendly community of Creston is worth the four-and-a-half hour drive through small towns and high mountains into rolling pastures dotted with grazing cattle. It feels like everyone in town takes part, unless they are out working their own fields. Road trip to Alberta? Schedule a pit stop here.
Heading to Vancouver? While you can get to Chilliwack or Agassiz and back in a day, stopping in the Fraser Valley to explore all things corn is worth a weekend break. The former is a larger fair, the latter has a small-town feel that becomes clear when listening to the crowd cheering on their friend(s) in a pie-eating contest. But both celebrate the farming community of this area, about a three-hour drive.
Just before school starts and summer unofficially ends and under two hours away is the largest agricultural exhibition in the province, and the final event in the Canada Pro Rodeo tour. The Interior Provincial Exhibition in Armstrong covers five days at the end of August. Llama costume contests, a top chef competition, live music all day, and farm animals galore might just take the kids away from the midway for a short time.
It is the season of harvest, but also of mini-donuts, dog agility displays, zucchini races, and the last road trip before winter.
This article first appeared on PentictonWorks.com, an online campaign to attract virtual workers to the city of Penticton.