It’s summer — why aren’t you at the fair?

The pedal tractor pull at the Vegreville Country Fair is just one of a “staggering” number of activities on offer at fairs and exhibitions put on by Alberta agricultural societies.
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It’s tempting to make every day a workday during the summer.

But if you can pull yourself away from the farm, 65,000 of your friends have a great day planned for you and your family.

That’s the number of volunteers who donate their time to the province’s agricultural societies, including putting on several dozen fairs, rodeos, animal shows, music festivals, and more across the province this summer.

Alberta events-fairs

“The plethora of things that go on is quite staggering, everything from the traditional fairs and rodeos to things that are quite unique, like the pedal tractor pull in Vegreville,” said Tom Carson, CEO of the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies.

The number of volunteers comes from a 2011 study on the impact of the province’s 293 ag societies.

And the size of that impact might surprise you.

“One of the roles of agricultural societies is to bring people together, and provide facilities and experiences that allow their community to have its unique feel,” said Carson.

“They own and operate over 700 facilities in the province — everything from hockey and curling rinks to ball diamonds, community halls, ski hills, golf courses, walking trails, and campgrounds. The list goes on and on and on. They provide these facilities not only for themselves but for other community groups. Whether it’s 4-H, scouts, adult groups, or whoever, they all need facilities so they can do what they’re passionate about.”

Those facilities have a replacement value of $1.4 billion — but many of their users don’t even know they are owned and operated by ag societies.

“Ag societies are one of the best-kept secrets out there,” said Carson. “Volunteers are seldom in it for the recognition, and they don’t blow their own horn very well. So a lot of people who are enjoying events such as hockey tournaments, bonspiels, and those types of events have no idea who is facilitating them. They don’t know it’s the agricultural society that’s providing that facility, they think it’s the municipality — that’s a very common misconception.”

But there’s no secret to finding an ag society event in your area.

The association has an Events link at albertaagsocieties.ca. That link takes you to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s ag societies events page. You can search by the type of event (there are 13 categories), by month (there are events listed as far out as Buffalo & District Agricultural Society’s Valentine Extravaganza), or by region (there are six in the province).

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