HARDING — For 364 days of the year, if you blink you might just miss Harding.
Friday could have been considered day number 365 as nearly 500 people descended on the ghost town, roughly 65 kilometres northwest of Brandon, to celebrate more than a century of what has affectionately become known as the Harding State Fair.
When asked how many people now live in the community, Wilma Bell, with the Harding Community Club, started listing residents name-by-name on her fingers.
“I think there is 10, either 10 or 12. Let’s put it this way, there are more dogs in town than people,” she said with a laugh.
Bell was one of several women in the community group who helped prepare food for the day, including a pancake breakfast and cold plates.
While the group’s name has changed from time to time, it has have handled food duties for 107 years.
The fair remains a huge success thanks to Bell and the many other volunteers, according to Harding Agricultural Society president Travis Hunter.
“We get a lot of support and the volunteers really make this fair,” he said.
Less than two weeks ago, Hunter said grass at the fairgrounds was up to their waists.
Fifteen lawnmowers, a committed group of volunteers and a cold beer to wash down a full day’s work following a picnic and the grounds were in tip-top shape.
The fair has also stayed true to its roots, offering first-class competition in a variety of categories involving cattle and horses.
“It’s no fun to go out with only one animal and get first,” Hunter said, adding some of the beef classes draw bigger numbers than the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.
One of the more prestigious awards is the Ron Sangster Memorial Supreme Bull and Female Classes. The winner of each class qualifies for the Royal Bank Supreme classes at the Western Canadian Agribition in Regina.
“This fair is a part of our life,” Marg Sangster said. “Harding comes alive for one day of the year and it’s an amazing community because everyone really works together.”
Sangster, who was raised in Lenore, has been coming to the fair as far back as she can remember.
Many there were third- and fourth-generation fairgoers. On the other end of the spectrum is Christa McKee, who was attending the fair for just the second time with Cranbrook Clydesdales farm.
“This fair is a lot of fun and it’s so exciting. All these people pull together and it’s a fantastic fair,” McKee said while braiding lead Clydesdale Captain’s mane prior to the heavy hitch class.
On this day, Captain and the exhibitors were the stars of the Harding Fair.
On Saturday, Harding goes back to being a ghost town for 364 days until its next special Friday in July.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 20, 2013