If you’ve been brought up in a city for most of your life, the word ‘farming’ probably conjures up a remote and perhaps quaint image in your head, of children’s storybooks and settlers in history books. But agriculture continues to be an essential industry for Canadians, even if it isn’t in front of our metropolitan eyes every day. Without it, our nation would lack many crucial elements and developments—for one, we wouldn’t have any food to eat.
So, what better way to learn about our primary industry than attend the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair? Known simply as the Royal to regular attendees, the indoor festival was established in 1922 and now counts over 300,000 participants and visitors each year at Exhibition Place. The Royal is a great opportunity to learn about where our food comes from and how it is made. It’s also refreshing and enlightening to engage with people who have a closer day-to-day interaction with nature than us urbanites, to see life in a slightly different way. In addition, for those of you who are interested in healthy living and a sustainable lifestyle, the Royal houses several booths discussing health-conscious cooking and eating as well as sustainable agricultural technology and practices.
What is arguably the Royal’s biggest draw, however, are the animals. All you animal lovers out there will be happy to find plenty of livestock and pets at the fair. In fact, part of the Direct Energy Centre at CNE is turned into a barn, simulating a day at the farm where you can walk alongside cattle led by farmers. There’s also a petting farm where you can get close to goats and llamas—needless to say, lots of kids beg their parents to stay longer there. Another very popular family destination is the Superdogs show, where trainers guide adorable pups through obstacle courses, high jumps and Frisbee catches while children cheer on. Finally, there is the Royal Horse Show, a prestigious, formal-attire event at the adjacent Ricoh Coliseum featuring equestrian show jumping competitions. One very cool feature with the Royal Horse Show is that you can stream it online at the Royal’s website (http://royalfair.org), either live for free or on-demand for $29.99.
Whether you’re interested in crops, healthy food, cowboy hats and overalls, beautiful horses and dogs, or just learning about a way of work and life outside of the city, the Royal Agricultural Winter fair is worth a visit. It runs from November 5 to 14 at Exhibition Place, from 9a.m. to 9p.m. Monday to Saturday, and from 9a.m. to 6p.m. Sunday.
Tickets are $20 for adults’ general admission. For the Royal Horse Show, tickets start from $41. Tickets can be bought online at ticketmaster.ca, or in person at Exhibition Place.
By car: Head to Lakeshore Blvd W., between Bathurst St. and Dufferin St. Parking is $13 and fills up quickly; make sure to head to the metered parking lots so that you can find a spot before paying.
By GO Train: exit at the Exhibition stop.
By TTC: take the 511 streetcar from Bathurst Station or the 509 from Union Station.