Back in Time at Markham Fair, the 1980s and early ’90s
Owing to the covid-19 pandemic, Markham Fair, like so many other events, was canceled for 2020. We thought it fitting, then, to look back in time at Markham Fair as we have experienced it with our family over the years.
Our days of attending Markham Fair in Ontario, Canada, began in 1982 when my eldest son was 2 1/2 months old. Both Bob and I had a history of visiting the Lindsay Fair when we were young. It held such precious memories for us as an exciting event full of thrills, games and discovery. We were keen to make the same wonderful memories for our own children.
Of course, when we arrived at the Fair, the music emanating from The Midway created a huge draw, and to set the mood for the day, we often treated our daughter to a ride on the Merry-go-round right off the bat.
Right afterwards, we went to see the livestock. For Bob and me, the barns took priority first thing in the morning. Pushing a stroller through the crowds later was almost impossible.
Baby animals were a huge draw, and the barns would get very congested with parents trying to delight and educate their children.
If a child was brave enough, there was ample opportunity to pet some of the farm animals, many of which were there to be judged by a panel later in the day.
The poultry house held many extraordinary examples of chickens, roosters and other species of fowl, though it was the chicks that captured the interest of our young family members.
Markham Fair is one of Canada’s oldest country fairs. It has been delighting young and old since 1844 with a variety of entertainment and displays. For the first few years that we attended, it was all about the rides and the food.
By 1983, our two children were able to go on the kiddie rides together with Bob providing close supervision.
What would Markham Fair be without a taste of fluffy, sweet Candy Floss? Bob and I would manage to snitch a few samples of it, too.
Bob and I always arrived at the fairgrounds when it opened at 10 a.m. and made a stay for a good share of the day. Lunch was procured from one of the vendors. In those early days, healthy options were preferred.
By 1990, we had added another bundle of joy to our family. The two older children took turns riding with their young brother.
By this time, our two older children would ask to visit the farm animals so generously put on exhibit by local farmers for the delight of the younger crowd. This tradition is treasured by the farming community. Farmers were proud to showcase their livestock and vie for recognition as the best the area had to offer.
A walkabout the Markham Fairgrounds always turned up something unexpected. A variety of street entertainers meandered between the buildings, stalls and tents. In 1990, it was our youngest son who appeared a little tentative when we introduced him to one such character.
By 1991, the appeal of the Merry-go-Round was still there for our daughter, and our youngest son was following in her footsteps. Back in 1919, the Merry-go-round was one of the two most popular rides on the Midway, the other being the Ferris Wheel. It seems its whimsical horses never lose their popular appeal.
My favorite rides as a child were the Scrambler and the Tilt-a-whirl, so I introduced my kids to those rides early on.
For old times sake, I would take a spin around on the Scrambler, too. Vertigo had not yet become an issue for me when thrown about in circles.
Bob preferred the Bumper Cars for a less turbulent ride, and what fun for our son to have control of the wheel.
Our kids were always tempted by the cajoles of the carnies and prospects of winning a prize. When I visited the Lindsay Fair as a child, my dad was the go-to man for winning prizes. He was adept at landing a dime on a plate every time, so we always came home with a prized stuffed animal. When our oldest son tried his hand at it at the Markham Fair, everyone was surprised by his skill. “Just like grandpa!”, we said.
A giant blowup chair won at one game had pride of place in his bedroom for a couple of years.
Bob’s sister lived in Ontario for a few years. Introducing her to the Markham Fair was a special occasion not since repeated. The good sport that she is meant that our kids had another adult to share in the excitement of the rides.
The whirling, twisting, lifting arms of the Octopus did not deter Bob’s sister from bonding with our daughter on yet another Midway ride while I shared the pod behind.
During those early years of family visits to Markham Fair, we usually headed home as darkness fell. With 3 young children in tow, exhaustion would be setting in for one and all. But the memories being created were fresh in everyone’s minds and would sustain us until another year.
Back in time at Markham Fair, Stiff Competitions, 2006 to 2013