Running from the Sept. 11-14, the 184th Kingston Fall Fair showcased some of the best horseback riders, lawn tractor racers, country singers and giant sunflower growers that Kingston has to offer, with more events and competitions than you could shake a proverbial stick at.
I have to admit that I’ve never been the biggest “country” boy. I grew up in a crowded suburb, I rode a bike as a kid instead of a tractor and chickens kind of freak me out.
But as soon as I stepped on to the Memorial Centre grounds, I became part of that community feeling of people coming together to share their best achievements of the year and have a nice day out with their family and friends.
The one thing I adored seeing even more than the flashing lights of the midway and the tantalizing smell of the beaver tail shack — yes, they had a real beaver tail shack — was the people.
The fall fair had something for everyone, from the youngest new competitors to their grandparents, bringing with them the memories of their first fair over half a century ago.
I spoke first with a young contestant in the junior steer competition named Shaelynn.
She was showing Lasenza, her rich brown calf complete with big puppy dog eyes and a face that couldn’t look happier if it was on a Baby Bell wrapper.
For those who don’t know, the steer show plays very similar to a dog show, just substituting beagles for young bovines.
When I first saw Shaelynn, she was beaming from ear to ear and excitedly brushing Lasenza’s tail.
She had just come from winning her very first show with Lasenza, leaving with the reserve champion title, usually awarded to the runner-up in the adult bracket.
It was given to her only because she was too young to receive the adult grand champion title, she explained.
I never got a chance to see her compete at the fair this year, but seeing the happiness in her eyes told me that her and Lasenza already felt enough like winners.
“She’s just so adorable and lovable,” she squealed at one point, nuzzling the calf’s snout with her face. “She’s my best friend!”
Looking for a little more excitement, it was easy to follow the sounds of whinnying over to the indoor arena, where the western games and show jumping were taking place.
Sitting down to watch the different horses canter and jump around the converted hockey rink, I began talking with the couple sitting next to me.
Their names were Mark and Kathy Teske, and as I soon found out, this wasn’t exactly their first rodeo. Kathy told me she had owned horses for over 25 years.
“They’re some of the most forgiving creatures on earth,” she said.
Having been thrown from a horse more than a handful of times in my life, I was reluctant at first to agree with her.
She was good at convincing me, though. “The important part is having that bond. If you don’t, then there’s no point in riding at all.” Kathy had many fond memories to share about coming to the fair as a child, and seeing her mother’s eyes light up when the show ponies would come out.
“My sister actually won one from the circus in this very ring in 1963. We named that one Dynamite. Along with Zoey, they were both very important to our family.”
Watching the Teskes look out over the ring, I was reminded again of why I always loved coming to the fair: the down-to-earth, friendly community I’d always yearned for living in a city that could sometimes lack it so much.
In the future, if you’re ever looking for something a little more authentic than a night at the Ale House, mark your calendar for the 185th Kingston Fall Fair next year.
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