Cedar 4H Club member Teagan Bradley

Cedar 4H Club member Teagan Bradley

A country fair with urban flair

NANAIMO – Vancouver Island Exhibition helps connect city dwellers to food production and agriculture.

Shake out those cowboy boots Nanaimo. It’s the start of the Vancouver Island Exhibition

The three-day summertime fair kicks off tomorrow (Aug. 21), with food, rides and vintage tractors.

Organizers say the event got its start in downtown Nanaimo 121 years ago, thanks to a group of farmers who wanted to show off their products and animals. Today the fair stays true to its country roots, with a little urban flair.

People can try their hand at goat milking, watch the West Coast Vaulters and pet farm animals or play bingo, take a whirl on amusement rides or see the wrestling match for the “King of the Ex” title.

In a push to rein in more youth, ‘country night’ has been moved to Sunday with Aaron Pritchett and Backstage Whiskey, while Econoline Crush and Daniel Wesley will light up the stage Friday.

“Because we’re in an urban setting, people don’t get to see farm animals so they can come here and learn about the animals, and go on the rides, and have some food and listen to the entertainment,” said VIEX president Karen Streeter. “We can educate and entertain.”

It takes more than 300 volunteers to put on the annual event. The moment it ends, planning for the next season begins.

Streeter says the VIEX’s 14 board members believe agriculture is important to everyday lives and for the next generation because lots of the farms on Vancouver Island are disappearing. People need to be educated about agriculture and where their food comes from, and about the animals that we have, she said.

Cedar 4-Her Vivian Woodward, 15, works at the Beban Barnyard which will be open to fairgoers this weekend.

“It’s important people are introduced to agriculture because that’s where your food comes from and if nobody knew about animals, or raised animals then we wouldn’t have any food,” she said. “Hopefully we get people interested in agriculture so we have more farmers in the future.”

The fair runs Aug. 21-23, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Children under six are free.

For more information on admission and schedules, please visit www.viex.ca.