The Annapolis Valley Exhibition started out as a one-day event known as the Riverside Guernsey Club Show. They held the show next to the Annapolis River in the little village of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia.
From that humble start the exhibition has grown to a week long display case of valley agriculture, culture and competitions. It is the gathering event of the year for many valley residents.
In 1928, only a year after it started it was expanded to a two day event and a large tent was added so they could hold in-door events. At a whooping cost of $1,100 the first permanent building was added in 1930. This was the large dining hall. Later two large barns and a sheep shed were added.
Over the years more display buildings and barns have been added at the exhibition grounds. In the late 1990's the Riverside Stage was constructed and has proved to be a great place for holding concerts. They changed their name to the Lawrencetown Exhibition, and then it was known as the Annapolis County Exhibition. Today it has grown to represent the whole valley and is called the Annapolis Valley Exhibition.
Along with the expansion of the buildings at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition; so did the events expand to cover many different aspects of the agriculture industry.
The Guernsey Cattle Show grew yearly and during the 1950's to early 1960's they had one of the largest shows east of the Royal Winter Fair. The excellent fruit and vegetable displays became very popular for the local people, as did the baked goods and arts & craft displays.
The livestock judging and displays at the Annapolis Valley exhibition have expanded to cover all types of livestock raised in the valley area. Every year new events, displays, attractions and entertainers were added and today the Annapolis Valley Exhibition has grown to a full weeklong major event.
So what does the exhibition have to offer you? Well the Annapolis Valley Exhibition offers around 150 different events going on with a packed full schedule for the entire week.
For the horse lovers there are around 100 events going on for both the light horse and heavy horse categories. There are also cattle judging events and ox pulls going on all through the week plus close to twenty other stock events.
Some people come to the Annapolis Valley Exhibition just to walk through the barns to look at all the different animals at the Ex.
For other people the Annapolis Valley Exhibition feature parades, craft demonstrations, fruit & vegetable judging and commercial exhibits. For all of those proud valley parents the Annapolis Valley Exhibition runs a baby contest and Little Miss. & Little Mr. Ex Competitions which are a favorite with the spectators to.
All week there are lots of entertainment acts going on plus several big name concerts are usually scheduled in.
The Annapolis Valley Exhibition starts off on Sunday with our young 4-H competitors showing off their 4-H projects that they have been working on all year. As the Annapolis Valley is an agricultural community, 4-H is very big here. We have several very active clubs with our young people working on such projects as light horse, beef, sheep, rabbits, gardening, arts & crafts, plus many other subjects.
I was a 4-H'er myself in the light horse category and I know the value of the things I learned in 4-H. I learned a lot about responsibility, teamwork, organizing events and how to speak in public.
The organization also offered me the opportunity to do things I otherwise would not of had the chance to try, one being an exchange trip to Saskatchewan. I well remember how exciting it was at this time when everything I had worked on all year was showed off and judged. Take the time to check out the young peoples work, I am sure you will be impressed.
Monday is the big day at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition; this is the day when most things get underway. The midway is open with the Bill Lynch Amusements set up. They bring with them many of the old favorite rides and popular games of chance, plus perhaps a few new ones.
There is something about a fair with all the glittering lights, the cheerful music, and all the wonderful smells that excite the senses. The excitement of the children fills the air with their screams and laughter coming from the rides. You see the little ones all over pulling on their parent’s arms toward the next exciting ride.
Starting in the morning much of the judging is done on the fruit & vegetables, poultry and pet stock and even the sheep. Ribbons are awarded to the winners and then they are proudly displayed for the rest of the week of the Annapolis Valley Exhibition.
The commercial displays are set up and open in the demonstration buildings promoting everything from tractors to t-shirts. The show rings swing into action as horse pulls and light horse shows get under way.
The evening program includes the official opening ceremonies of the Annapolis Valley Exhibition along with some form of entertainment and highlighted by the Grand Street Parade, which ends up in the main show ring. Then there is more entertainment and followed by the annual ATC competition, which has become very popular over the years. Check out the Youth Arena for the entertainment going on in there to.
Tuesday morning begins with the fences being set up for the Open English Hunter Pony/Horse classes. The main ring is busy with equitation and pleasure classes, and the pulling ring gets under way with some ox pulls.
In the afternoon the main ring showcases some matched pair draft ponies and some gymkhana light horse games. Head over to the Youth Arena early to check out the babies entered in the Annapolis Valley Exhibition Baby Contest. Then talk a walk over to the Homecrafts Building for some Craft Demonstrations. Make it back to the main ring in time for the Costume Class and the Ladies Single Draft Pony Driving Competition.
Want a good laugh? Check out the Wild n Woolie Sheep Rodeo Tuesday evening in the main ring. Other exciting events happening on Tuesday evening include the Miss Valley Ex. Pageant, the Fire Fighters Bucket Brigade, Ladies Ox Pull and Team Penning. All of these events at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition are very entertaining.
It's Wednesday already, wow. The Craft Demonstrations are in full swing in the Homecrafts Building, and the pulling ring is coaching on the Heavy horse pulls. Jr. Beef Showmanship is going on in the main ring first followed by the Miniature Horse/Donkey Youth Turnout.
The kids are all heading down to the Riverside Stag where the Teddy Bear Picnic is going on. On the way we stop a minute o watch the Miniature Horse/Donkey In Hand Jumping happening in the jumping ring.
It goes on like this all day at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition, every ring a bee hive of activity, so many events happening one right after the other.
It is nice to take a break and enjoy some of the great food being served at one of the many food concession stands. Stop into the main dining hall where you can get a great home cooked meal. They serve something different every night and it all taste great. You can also get some great food at some of the smaller concession stands and support the local organizations of the valley.
Wednesday evening highlights are the Little Miss & Little Mr. Ex Competitions in the Youth Arena and the Wild n Woolie Sheep Rodeo in the main ring. These are followed by the very popular Wednesday Night Rodeo in the main ring and a concert by the group Retroactive in the Youth Arena.
Thursday's schedule is also packed full in every venue at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition. The jumping rings are busy all day with many different jumping classes.
The main ring has dairy & beef judging, pleasure driving and in-hand classes happening all day. Open and heavy horse pulls going on in the pulling ring continuously during the day with a break once in awhile for some ox pulls .
Thursday evening brings a demonstration of Mi'kmaq music in the Youth Arena, a concert going on at the Riverside Stage, and more horse shows including the Gymkhana Races of Barrels & Poles in the main ring.
On Friday the Exhibition crowds are getting bigger. It is hard to walk any distance without seeing one of your neighbours or long time friends. You know you have to stop and catch up on any news from the last year from those friends you haven't seen since last year's Annapolis Valley Exhibition.
Many of the Light Horse Classes are into their finals and the excitement is building at all the rings. Just take a walk through the barns and watch, as the owners are busy bathing and grooming their mounts and polishing up their equipment. Even the horses seem a little more alert today.
There are more craft demonstrations going on and lots to see in the demonstration buildings. Many people head to the main ring in time for the Steer Show and the Roy Robinson's Herding Demonstration.
In the evening make sure you check out the Youth Talent Competition for some great local talent. A little later the hill in front of the Riverside Stage is very crowded as people wait for one of the main feature concerts of the Annapolis County Exhibition. Last year they had Rita McNeil in concert on Friday night.
All too soon the final day of the Annapolis Valley Exhibition is here. Final competitions are winding up, you will see the best of the best today in the rings. All the rings are busy and the stands are full.
The sound of the announcer's voices are getting louder to compensate for the noise of the crowds as the excitement builds. By now everyone has their favorites to win and they are not scared to cheer them on. It is well known the louder the cheers - the better they will do.
There is more noise coming from the fair grounds also as the games of chance are in full swing. Everywhere you see young men trying to show off their skills to win the young ladies a stuffed animal to cherish. Of course it is a known fact that the bigger the stuffed animal you can win, the better your chances are with the young ladies.
The money wheel, colour game and birthday wheel are all spinning continuously as people try to win some more quarters. Several seniors take a break from walking and sit at the bingo tent and try their luck there for a while.
The air is full of the sound of children’s squeals of delight and
laughter is heard everywhere. The smell of cotton candy fills the air
and many red candy apples are sighted in both the kids and grownups
hands. One of my special treats at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition is
fries with vinegar, lots of vinegar on them. I know I can put vinegar on
fries at any time, but they just do not taste the same as they do at
Saturday has many special events going on at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition like the Antique Tractor Parade, more in the Youth Talent Competition, Bluenose Western Pleasure Horse & Champion Presentations and the winners announced for all the many draws held during the week. More entertainment is going on in the Youth Arena and another big concert at the Riverside Stage as performers like Brad Johner thrill the audience. The week ends up with another ATC Competition in the Main ring.
What a week it has been, another very successful year for the Annapolis Valley Exhibition. The next morning the crowds are gone and the fair is torn down and on their way to their next town. Trucks hauling horse trailers are filling up with very tired but content horses and riders.
In the trailer area campers are packing up slowly as everyone stop to discuss the weeks events with each other. Everyone hates to leave, it was a great week. For some it will be another year before they do it again, for others they will be going right to the next exhibition in the next town to start it all over again there.
As for the organizers, they are already wheeling with ideas to change, add and improved next years Annapolis Valley Exhibition.
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Prior to the completion of the Dominion Atlantic Railway run from Halifax to Yarmouth in 1893, a traveller had to buy four separate tickets for the trip. One from Halifax to Windsor where he changed cars; another from Windsor to Annapolis Royal via the Windsor to Annapolis Railway; then a ticket to Digby via a steam boat or coach; and then the fourth from Digby to Yarmouth by the Western Counties railway.
The summer and autumn of 1815 saw an invasion of mice such has never been seen before in the history of the province or country. They caused much destruction before it was brought under control, including enough damage to crops to threaten a famine throughout the valley.
In 1838 the Western Stage coach Company was formed to operate four-horse drawn coaches from Halifax to Annapolis Royal three times a week during the summer and two or three times a week during the winter.