The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair opens its doors November 7, 2014 for the 92nd instalment of what has become a favourite Toronto tradition. The fair brings together the best of Canadian agricultural producers and animals, great food and chefs, as well as international level riders who compete for the top prizes in their respective fields. It runs November 7 – 16, 2014 with activities and competitions going on all day and well into the witching hours. People come to work hard and play hard at The Royal.
The Royal has a mandate to educate its visitors and that’s made possible because people can get up close with animals and food production in ways many never experience.
Take the Food Journey to understand the process of bringing our food from the farm to the table; learn how milk gets from the cow — Yes, it really does come from a cow. This is a real question I overheard. — to your glass; find out why cattle exhibitors wash and fluff dry their animals before competition. For the record: better looking cattle = more interest in that farm’s breeding program by buyers = money = a farmer who can keep farming. These are all questions kids and families can get answers to, and a better understanding of where our food comes from leads to a healthier relationship with food and our environment. Deep stuff, right? Not to worry, it’s delivered amidst fun and entertainment, but the message gets through.
To entertain families there’s a petting zoo, a play area with tiny tractors and not so tiny seats for tired parents who’ve begun to calculate if strollers are sturdy enough to take the weight of an adult (They’re not.), and the President’s Choice Animal Theatre. The Theatre showcases Goats on the Go, a bit of a spoof on agility contests, but with goats; the superdogs and other working animals; and Guy McLean, an Australian horseman, entertainer, and world champion horse trainer. Guy works his horses with a gentle touch and quiet voice commands. He’s incredible to watch for novice or experienced horse people.
New this year is the Food and Lifestyle Stage, which is perfect because who isn’t a foodie nowadays? Stop in to watch top local and international chefs in timed cook-offs using top-secret ingredients in the Royal Invitational Chef Competition and the Road to The Royal Chef Competition. The Royal has become a food-lover’s paradise. Besides the chef showdowns, there are six pop-up restaurants that provide everything from pub food to fine dining. Make reservations for some of these restaurants because the chefs are creative and talented. I ate at the Hitching Ring and it’s the perfect place to sit for a while over a good meal.
The Royal Horse Show is one of the focal points of the fair and is ranked number one in North America for all indoor, international level shows. This is a huge accomplishment in the show jumping world and something the organizers have worked hard to achieve. By ranking highly they’re able to attract top-level riders, exhibitors, and sponsors, which continues to raise the calibre of the event. What’s great about this venue, besides the world-class horse and rider combos we’re familiar with, is that youth and amateur riders compete here, too. The Royal is their place to shine on the National level and this helps to develop riders who will represent Canada at the international level in the future.
That commitment to youth and their education and growth, whether in the jumping ring or with 4H exhibitors, is what makes The Royal a favourite place for exhibitors to come back to year after year. The enthusiasm of the competitors and exhibitors creates a fun and engaging place for visitors, and that keeps us coming back year after year.
Head down to The Royal this year. You’ll love it.