Dig out your cowboy boots.
The swift transformation of the Keystone Centre into a bastion of all things agriculture is complete and the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair begins this morning with the Western Breakfast.
Well before the fair came to life today, organizers, participants and exhibitors spent the past several days going through their own routines and rituals.
Bob Crowe, a Dairy Farmers of Manitoba representative, came to town early last week to set up a fully functional cow milking rig as part of the ag awareness show and was anxiously awaiting this week’s crowds.
Hailing from the Dauphin area, the now-retired producer has been coming to the Winter Fair for 14 years and his unwavering enthusiasm is obvious when he speaks about the exhibit.
"I love it, I live it," he said on Saturday, pointing out the Canadian Holstein cow tattooed on his lower arm.
"When it’s in your blood, it never goes out, this is our passion."
The dairy exhibit is one of many interactive agricultural displays at the fair this week and they all have a common goal.
"We want to educate," he said, ringing off a number of misconceptions about his industry.
"Brandon is not as removed from the farm as Winnipeg is," he said. "You have to feel sorry for the kids in the city and adults — they have no clue."
Many of the horse riders — the focal point of the fair — were seen over the weekend bathing, brushing and training their faithful steeds ahead of the first round of showing yesterday for the judges.
"It gives a chance for the horses to get acclimatized to their different surroundings," said Erin Anderson of Pine Castle Equestrian Centre in Waskada.
Anderson, like many other riders in the several barns at the Keystone Centre, spent Saturday afternoon braiding the manes of six of her horses ahead of her farm’s showing-per-day schedule.
"It’s going to be a busy week," she said.
Many also spent some of the weekend making their temporary stalls feel like a slice of home with signs, pictures and awards lacing the rows and rows of barns, while others went even further and added plush couches, coffee tables and shrubs, all to stand out and make a name for themselves among the some 400 horses and their riders competing in the massive event.
Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture Food and Rural Development Ron Kostyshyn is expected to make an announcement later this week during the pork luncheon on Wednesday, though no details have been formally released.
Premier Greg Selinger is also expected be at the fair today and Manitoba Conservative MP and Minister of State Candice Bergen will likely be in town for the fair on Friday.
Winnipeg’s Jill Officer, who nabbed gold at the Sochi Olympics Winter Games as part of Canada’s women's curling team, will also make an appearance on Friday.
Opening ceremonies will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Westman Place and will honour the members of the Canadian Armed Forces. The 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Drum Line will be a part of the ceremonies along with the 26th Field Regiment RCA Pipes and Drums, members from Canadian Forces Base Shilo, 82nd Brandon Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron, No. 10 Swiftsure Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corp., and the 71st Battery Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corp.
Forces members will also receive free gate admission today when they show their military ID at the gates and military family members will receive 50 per cent off admission with identification.
"We want to take the opportunity to thank them and to honour them and we thought that’d be a great way to kick off the fair," said Rob O’Connor, the new general manager of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba.
The week of events starts at 6 a.m. this morning, with the annual Western Breakfast running until 9 a.m. which is $3 with all the money going to the agriculture awareness program.
As for fair attendance, O’Connor said he isn’t expecting any surprises.
"I expect we’ll do the same kind of numbers that we’ve done the past three or four years," he said, ranging from 105,000 to 115,000 visits.
"I’m just really looking forward to this fair, the amount of goodwill we get from the community, the support we’re getting from the volunteers and the hard work the staff has put in, I think this is going to be a great event."
The fair runs until Saturday.
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This evening’s schedule (6:30 p.m. start)
• Opening ceremonies
• Branstone Financial Strategies gamblers’ choice
• Brandon Sun four horse tandem team
• Single roadster pony (open)
• Calf scramble
• Canadian Tire barrel racing
• Mini chuckwagon races
• President’s Choice SuperDogs
CIBC Imperial Experience (4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.)
• A showcase of the fair’s smallest miniature horses (Monday only)
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