Fair celebrates 120 years

Signs point the way to the variety of agricultural displays and activities at the VIEX. - File photo
Signs point the way to the variety of agricultural displays and activities at the VIEX.
— image credit: File photo

Over the past 120 years Nanaimo has transformed from a coal mining town to a mill town to a more urbanized area and while plenty of events, buildings and people have come and gone from the Harbour City, the Vancouver Island Exhibition has remained a constant year after year.

The Vancouver Island Exhibition country fair, also known as VIEX, is back in the Harbour City for the 120th straight year.

President and main stage director, Don Boyd, said that while the event has been around for more than a century, the focus has remained the same throughout the years.

“Trying to make sure that we have a good product to put out,” Boyd said.

When VIEX was created back in 1894, it was designed as way to show off the best local farmers and to educate people about the importance of agriculture to the community.

However, over the years the event has become more than just a place to educate the public about life on the farm – it’s become a place that showcases all exhibits such as cat shows, roller derby, an international logging competition, pumpkin carving, gold miners and more.

Boyd explained that VIEX, which has drawn much more than 15,000 people for a number of years, has had to incorporate a lot of different exhibits in order to maintain the public’s interest.

“We’re trying to make sure that we have a good product to put out so that people will want to come,” Boyd said. “It’s challenge to keep interest. After a 120 years of getting 15,000 to 20,000 people to an event is a feat in itself.”

Throughout the years, VIEX has faced plenty of challenges. In recent years, getting volunteers has always been an issue for organizers. A few years ago VIEX brass pushed for the approval of a new $1.8-million Agriplex to replace their existing facilities.

But despite its issues with volunteers and new buildings there is always one challenge each year that organizers have no control over.

“Weather is always a challenge,” Boyd said. “That is always a worry.”

Over the years there have been plenty of noteworthy musicians to perform at VIEX. Recent musicians to perform at the event include The Trews, Aaron Pritchett, Dallas Smith, Robyn and Ryleigh, Bobs and Lolo, Braeden Marshall, Prism, The Kerplunks, Alan Frew, Default, Carli and Julie Kennedy, Mikaila Tombe, Hope King, Valdy and Damian Marshall.

Boyd, who wouldn’t reveal any upcoming musical acts for this year’s event, said that there will be some newer showcases at VIEX.

“This year we’ve brought in a few different things,” Boyd said. “I think everyone will be excited to see what those things are.”

VIEX takes place Aug. 15-17 at Beban Park fairgrounds. For more information, please visit

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