COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Fairgoers take a ride on the swings during the opening day of the Manitoba Summer Fair, Wednesday afternoon at the Keystone Centre.
Rob O’Connor is impressed with his first experience at the Manitoba Summer Fair.
O’Connor took over as general manager of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba in February, replacing Karen Oliver, who announced last October she would be stepping down.
Prior to this year, O’Connor had never been to the Manitoba Summer Fair or the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.
"I didn’t come here as a rookie," he said. "I have worked with many different fairs in the past, but Brandon’s is unique."
The number of volunteers who are dedicated to putting on the fair shocked O’Connor.
"There are so many passionate volunteers involved with the whole production," he said. "That is really what makes the Provincial Ex such a great organization."
Although the fair week started off rainy, O’Connor said he was not disappointed by the turnout.
"When I took the position, I looked over the past attendance and we tend to get 100,000 at the gate each year," he said. "Last year was the best attended fair in the past decade, but it was also good weather."
The Provincial Exhibition introduced several new events and attractions to this year’s Summer Fair, including barrel racing, a sword swallower and X Pogo.
Two new attractions that excited and impressed O’Connor were the West Coast Lumberjack Show and the Mayor’s International Cup soccer tournament.
"The lumberjack show was a big, big hit," O’Connor said. "Almost every one of their shows was at full capacity."
The indoor soccer tournament was introduced to help bring together Brandon and all the newcomers who have joined the community, O’Connor said.
"As our own city changes I really want the fair to reflect those changes too," O’Connor said. "It was an amazing feeling to go watch the games and hear conversations in so many different languages."
O’Connor has high hopes that the soccer tournament will someday grow to be a well-known annual fair event bringing in teams from around the area.
"The feeling of seeing new or different aspects of the fair coming together after all the hard work of our staff and volunteers is the best part of this job," O’Connor said. "I was nervous to be replacing someone who was here for 10 years, but they welcomed me immediately."
After his first summer fair experience, O’Connor said that when he took the position he planned on having it until he retired and this week really reflected that decision.
» Twitter: @megan_lane2
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 9, 2014