An entry in the 2019 Cobble Hill Fair. Exhibits will be displayed and enjoyed online in 2020. (Citizen file)

Cobble Hill Fair going ‘virtual’ this year

Organizers think outside the box to plan around COVID-19

Organizers of the Cobble Hill Fair have found a way to keep their long-running event alive, despite restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual fair, which celebrates its 111th year in 2020, typically attracts 5-6,000 people on the one day, and with gatherings currently limited to 50 or fewer, that’s simply not possible. Rather than cancel the fair outright, the Shawnigan Cobble Hill Farmers Institute and Agricultural Society has opted to take the exhibition portion of the event online this year.

“We’re excited about the prospect of not folding our tent and going away, but having a virtual fair that people can participate in from a distance and see the fruits of other people’s labours,” Farmers Institute secretary Gerry Giles said.

Participants in the “virtual fair” can send in photos of their entries, where they can be seen by visitors. Entries will also be judged, with some special prizes awarded.

Organizers initially planned to cancel the fair entirely, but when word got out, a number of people expressed their disappointment, especially given that this could be a banner year for flower and vegetable gardens, given the amount of extra time many people are spending at home. That led the Farmers Institute to think outside the box and come up with the virtual fair.

“It’s new; it’s certainly different,” Giles commented. “It’s just far too long to have a fair not do anything for two years.”

Several similar events in B.C. and across Canada will be trying the same tactics, Giles noted.

“We’re pleased to say both BC Fairs and the Canadian Federation of Fairs and Exhibitions are following suit and there will be a number of virtual fairs across Canada this year,” she said.

The virtual fair hasn’t been advertised extensively yet, but lots of interest has already been expressed, Giles said. The catalogue should go online at cobblehillfair.ca in the first week of June. Entries will be accepted between Saturday, Aug. 1 and Tuesday, Aug. 18, after which they will be judged and displayed online. The theme of this year’s fair is “How Green Is Our Valley.”

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