A bit of country in Toronto for the Royal Winter Fair

“I go every year,” said Laurier third year psychology major Sarah Main of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, which runs from Nov. 5 to Nov. 14 at Exhibition Place in Toronto. “It’s a great learning experience for everyone, there’s always something for everyone to do.”

In its 88th year, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, or the ”Royal” as it is typically called, includes two predominant events: the Royal Horse Show and the Royal Agricultural Show.

The fair has expanded to become much more of an attraction than it was almost a century ago when it first began, so much so that it is now the world’s largest indoor agricultural fair and international equestrian competition.

The Royal affords many opportunities for the public to learn about healthy eating, agriculture and horses.

“A lot of people in the city don’t realize what’s involved in rural living so the Royal gives them that opportunity,” said Melissa Monardo, marketing manager for the Ontario Equestrian Federation (OEF), the organization that runs the “Spirit of the Horse” exhibit, which offers patrons the ability to learn about “different types of horses that there are and the types of riding styles that are available.”

Main commented on the unique nature of the Royal and its ability to bring together the many diverse disciplines from the equestrian world.

“It’s really cool to have a look around and see the different aspects involved,” she said. “There’s so many different types of riding so there’s something there for everyone.”

Monardo commented that the OEF’s close relationship with the Royal allows for an increase in knowledge about the opportunities Ontario provides for horse enthusiasts.

“The Royal gives us a public venue that we can really reach the masses because [equestrian] is a really niche market sometimes it’s hard to get out to the general public,” Monardo said.

“The Royal really gives us that opportunity so that’s why we really like working with them.”

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair began on Nov. 22 of 1922 and has since expanded to host more than 340,000 visitors.

In particular, the Royal Horse Show draws riders from the Fédération Equestre International (FEI) such as Michael Whitaker from Great Britain and Leslie Howard of the United States.

“For horse people [the Royal] brings international competition to the city, gives them a chance to see FEI riders, everything from show jumping to dressage to hunter to driving,” commented Monardo.

“It just brings [a high level of riding] to the city where you don’t always get a chance to see that.”

Main echoed Monardo’s statements and said she returns to the Royal Horse Show each year because of the draw the competition has for international riders from across Europe and North America.

Along with expanding internationally with the Royal Horse Show, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair has begun catering to all ages with petting zoos, dog shows and the “journey to your good health” exhibit, all attractions that garner great crowds.

“Royal” facts

  • Originally slated to start in 1921, the event had to be pushed back a year because the heating could not be installed in the Coliseum in time.

  • During its 1922 inaugural year, the fair had an astonishing 17,000 agricultural entries and over 150,000 visitors.

  • The Royal Agricultural Fair is a registered, not-for-profit charity.
    Some 326,000 visitors attend the Royal each year.

  • The Royal Agricultural Show includes prizes for entries like giant vegetables and butter sculpting.

  • The Royal Horse Show includes competitions in driving, show jumping, indoor eventing and dressage.
    —courtesy of royalfair.org