The Priddis & Millarville Fair is one of Southern Alberta’s oldest and largest country fairs. Located at the Millarville Racetrack and co-hosted with the Millarville Farmers’ Market, the Fair is the place to come to learn about Alberta’s agricultural history, touch the animals, view the creations of local artisans, gardeners, photographers and wood workers. We have antique tractors, cars, and trucks that span generations, horse riding events of all types, and contests – pie eating, rooster crowing, watermelon eating, youth talent. There is so much to see and do it might take you 2 days to take it all in.
With products made, baked or grown in Alberta, you can support local farmers and crafters while learning about our rich agricultural history. From field crops to honey bees and whether it is observing how livestock is graded or taking time to marvel at the great display of judged entries, there is no shortage of things to do at the Fair! Interested in home cooking & baking, arts & handicrafts, fibre arts, photography, woodworking, flowers, fruits, and vegetables? Then we have something for you. Make & Take activities are scattered throughout the exhibits – birdhouse building, cookie decorating, rock painting, sheave tying, drawing, knitting & crocheting and more.
Historically, Priddis and Millarville Fair has been touted as the biggest little fair in the West. It began when many people in the area were more interested in agriculture than horse racing. Perhaps there was some bragging about who had the best garden, the highest sunflowers, the largest potato, or the best livestock. The one way to convince others was to bring their exhibits to an agricultural fair, to be judged by an official judge. In 1907, the fair started in Priddis and was held every year there until 1915. From 1916-1930, it was agreed that the show would be held alternately first at Millarville Race Track, then the next year at Priddis. This worked quite well for a number of years. This arrangement created problems as two sets of facilities had to be maintained for use every other year, and additional preparation required to the necessary buildings, fences, etc. The ones closest to Priddis trailed their animals there, and the people close to Millarville herded their animals over to the race track grounds. This didn’t lend to much competition. It was soon settled to meet half-way, between the two communities.
Fordville School happened to be halfway between, so inside exhibits were displayed in the school house and a set of corrals were made to accommodate the livestock. The fair was held at Fordville School from 1931-1945. Although this worked well for a while, the fair grew year by year, and there was never enough room or facilities at hand.
Since 1946, the Millarville Race Track has been its permanent home. After much community input, a hall was built in 1950 on the Race track land, providing the hall would in no way jeopardize the track. That was a happy day for the whole community and from then on, the Priddis and Millarville Fair has been held at the Millarville Racetrack. ¹
In 1970, the Agricultural Society joined with the Millarville Racing and Sports Association to form the Millarville Racing and Agricultural Society. In 2007, a monument plaque was situated on a rock on the north side of the Racetrack Hall, commemorating a Century of Exhibitors. This agricultural fair continues the tradition on which it was built – keen yet friendly competition showcasing excellence. The purpose has always been and remains ‘to put on a great show’ where the entire community is welcome and encouraged to participate.
The fair has always been a family affair; three and four generations of a family exhibiting at the same time, often competing in the same classes. First time exhibitors too, soon feel the magical spirit of Fair Day and become entrenched in the well-established fair traditions, returning to exhibit year after year. As they say, they ‘became hooked’. Fair Directors/Managers have continually added their own magical touch and commitment to the success of the Fair creating and offering classes and incentives to attract and retain these exhibitors. Spectators likewise enjoy Fair Day and come to partake in some of that good old-fashioned country fun. The Fair is family; the Fair is Community. ²
The Priddis and Millarville Fair has morphed and expanded, utilizing all available spaces including the Hall, Quonset, pens, outdoor arenas, racetrack, large tents, and now the new arena, which was rebuilt in 2019. This new spacious facility provides much needed space for the many varied classes and demonstrations. Since 2016, exhibits, exhibitors, and demonstrations are showcased for two days in this beautiful country atmosphere.
This country fair is a huge success story because of the diligence of generations of volunteers and new community members, exhibitors, and sponsors. It is one of the oldest and largest agricultural fairs in this province. This unique quality of combining outstanding bench exhibits (flowers, fruit & vegetables, grains & grasses, home cooking & baking, photography, fibre arts, arts & handicrafts, and woodworking) as well as excellent live entries (llama, dairy goats, sheep, poultry, waterfowl & pigeons, light horse, beef cattle and rabbits) creates a learning atmosphere for participants, volunteers, and spectators.
¹Excerpts from Art Patterson’s article in Reflections On the Millarville Race Track
² Dorothy Jackson’s article in Going to the Fair Volume 2