London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
For the last 137 years, the Western Fair District (WFD) has been drawing shrill screams from midway riders, contagious laughter from those watching entertainers and even enthusiastic “Yums!” from fair food connoisseurs. And this year will be no different.
While it has evolved over the years, Heather Blackwell, corporate affairs director with WFD, said the tried and true aspects of the fair have been maintained.
“We keep the tradition and the nostalgia that’s wrapped around annual fairs in tact,” she said. “But of course, we do need to always sort of reinvigorate the fair with a few new additions each year.”
This year, free concerts with admission and a Deep Fry It! contest are joining the all-time favourites like rides on the ferris wheel or the zipper, and mowing down on corn dogs, Belgian waffles or candyfloss.
The beloved roller coaster will also be making a reappearance this year.
Bands ranging from the Arkells to Trooper will be gracing the fair’s Coca Cola Free Stage every evening, but the entertainment doesn’t start or finish there.
“All day every day, there will be acts and entertainment on that stage, so no matter what time you arrive at the fair, you will be able to catch one of those entertainers in that area,” Blackwell said. She added there will be more than 50 acts and performances on the Coca Cola Free Stage alone, and hundreds more throughout the fair over the 10-day event.
All major acts on the Coca Cola stage will be opened by local bands. Blackwell said this was done to support the homegrown music scene in London.
But because of that stage, there won’t be as many strolling acts as there were in years past. Blackwell said that move was made, in part, to keep the entertainment flowing in one location throughout the event.
She explained, in the past if you wanted to catch a strolling act, you’d have to keep an eye on the daily schedule and find the performers at a particular time and location to watch them. But, with the way the stage and entertainment is set up this year, all fair goers have to do is head by the main stage.
“All acts will have time on that particular stage, so there will always be something and you won’t miss anything,” Blackwell said.
As for the breadth of performances, Blackwell stressed London is a big city and the fair draws all demographic groups — young and old, urban and rural — so WFD always tries to provide a mix in the concert makeup.
“You’ve got young people attending, families, seniors and you have to bring something for everyone,” she said.
It’s not just the admission to the concerts that’s free, but parking is too. Blackwell said this was done so more value could be built into this year’s festivities.
“People want that one-stop one admission price and that’s what we were trying to achieve,” she explained. “When you arrive at the fair, you’ll no longer pay for parking, you’ll come to the gate, pay your admission and you move into the fair and everything is free, other than rides and games.
“There are so many things — attractions, facilities, entertainers — that are part of the fair that will be free this year that you can spend the day and enjoy yourself without going on a ride."
The activities range from milking demonstrations and history lessons to comedy and magic shows and a demolition derby. The annual Rise 2 Fame youth talent show will also be a highlight of the fair this year.
While there will be a small cost associated with it, the fair this year will also feature the winner of the Deep Fry It! contest.
Throughout August, residents were asked to offer up suggestions as to what should be deep fried and served at the fair. In total, more than 100 submissions were received and nearly 1,000 votes were cast.
Blackwell said deep-fried butter tarts, Oreos, wagon wheels, peanut butter cups and apples are the finalists and the winner will be served at this year’s fair.
“There will be other exciting morsels as well, but that’s a specific contest that’s getting a lot of people excited and talking about the fair,” Blackwell said.
Whether you’re interested in the shows, the food or even the rides, tickets are still available for the Western Fair, which runs from Sept. 7 until Sept. 16. For more information, visit www.westernfairdistrict.com.
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