The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
"The Royal" is Canada's most prominent agricutural event. Begun in 1922, it's held each November at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in downtown Toronto, puncturing the gloomy weather outside with 10 days of lively colour and activities.
I hadn't been to the fair in some years, so was surprised to see how it's changed and grown. Farmers come from all over Ontario, Québec and even New York state to show off their best and let city folk know where their food comes from.
The horse shows and agricultural displays allowing visitors to walk among the stalls of sheep, goats and cattle now have competition for attention from a huge food court. Vendors selling food, clothing and crafts from across the province mix with some unusual displays, such as a 900-pound pumpkin on the back of an antique pickup truck.
Lots of fun, especially last Thursday when a record number of students from regional schools jammed the halls. I found myself being interviewed by some as part of their class project. Several were sketching the animals as part of a life drawing class.
The purpose of my visit was a luncheon, so I arrived early to wander around with my camera, just having fun. Nothing serious. Lunch could easily have been all the food samples being offered, but I restricted myself to a variety of cheeses — in particular, goat cheeses, although I also discovered a baby 9-month old cow's milk cheddar with a sharpness remarkably like one of its 4-year old siblings! A rare find.
I couldn't resist buying 2 bags of organic stone ground flour from Ontario's North for my next round of home baking. There's no substitute for the purest ingredients.
My photo gear was an easy walkabout kit: an Olympus OMD EM-1 with 12-40mm f2.8 lens. ISO ratings ranged from 400 in the food areas to 2500 for the horse show jumping.