1950 – 2014 NORTH THOMPSON FALL FAIR AND RODEO CELEBRATES 65 YEARS THEN AND NOW – LOOK HOW FAR WE’VE COME! THEN: Back in 1950, what had been a dream for local farm and ranch families became a reality. The Native Sons of Canada lent their Louis Creek grounds and hall for the first fall fair which was held on Labour Day. The fall fair entry catalogue had just 12 pages, and promised: “To make your Labour Day a real holiday, a full round of entertainment during the day and evening is assured”. An estimated 500 people attended that first fair. Len Johnson, the first fair manager, made the following statement 63 years ago, “For a fair to be a success, it must first be centered in a farming district, and secondly, it must have the support of the people of the community.” Len’s words have rung true. Fueled by outstanding volunteerism since its inception, the North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo (NTFFR) has steadily evolved and expanded. The location has changed, and so have many of the faces, although many remain, and familiar family names continue to support the NTFFR. After 65 years the focus is the same as it was back in 1950: “A celebration of agriculture, livestock, western country living and community spirit”. TODAY the North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo is in its 63rd year, and is one of the leading regional events within the Thompson Nicola Regional District.
The mission statement of the organization is: To encourage, develop and promote the advancement of agriculture and farm living in the North Thompson Valley, with special reference to the fostering of livestock, crops, orchard crops, poultry husbandries, industrial, commercial, educational, mechanical and household arts, and rural and urban young peoples organizations, 4H competitions, livestock competitions, fine arts, sewing and baking, gardening, bee keeping, and volunteerism at its finest.
The NTFFRA functions with a volunteer Board of Directors along with an additional 75-100 dedicated community volunteers. Facility enhancements and upgrades are in almost all instances completed by volunteers. Major upgrades such as electrical, welding, carpentry, etc., are often provided by local contractors at cost, and with much done as in-kind donations. The annual budget for the Fall Fair and Rodeo is in excess of $250,000, and to this date the NTFFRA remains debt free.
Over the past five years 10,000 – 11,000 visitors have converged on the small community of Barriere during the week of the Fall Fair and Rodeo, bringing with them an estimated economic impact of $525,000. Eighty-five percent of the visitors are from the Kamloops and Lower Mainland areas. More than 85 percent of the expenditures are purchased from local businesses.
Notably, in March of 2011 the NTFFRA embraced a vision of constructing the North Thompson Agriplex; a multi-use agricultural facility to serve the region and beyond. In less than six months, thanks to volunteers, businesses, contractors, supporters and sponsors the building was erected and able to host the 62nd Fall Fair and Rodeo. Most importantly, the community buy-in to the project was phenomenal; over $730,00 raised (including $188,000 in-kind donations) to complete phase one of the project. In 2012, phase two of the project has been funded by the BC Community Recreation Program. The fall fair facility holds on average over 100 events annually; serving local, regional, and provincial needs. The public demonstrates a willingness to participate in activities at the facility, not just seasonally, but throughout the year; and with the addition of the North Thompson Agriplex the number of events has already started to rise significantly. The NTFFRA recognizes, that with continued positive growth and expansion within the facility, that the direct economic growth to the community of Barriere and the surrounding area remains immediate and significant.
The dream that was started 65 years ago lives on today, because of unending community spirit and the hardworking dedicated volunteers who continue to make it all happen. The legacy lives on! The dream lives on because a group of volunteers and participants work hard together each year to keep it so.