Ian McKenzie wheels one of his prized projects out of a large shop on the grounds of the Luxton Fairgrounds.
The beautifully-restored wooden 1920s-era contraption, he explains, is a “fanning mill,” which was used to clean grain harvested from local fields.
McKenzie, an antique farm equipment enthusiast and board member with the Metchosin Farmers Institute – which oversees this weekend’s Luxton Spring Fair – says the mill is a good illustration of how people can put their talents to use on this sprawling 10-acre site in Langford.
“It’s a different type of project that volunteers can do that’s not mechanical,” he says, surrounded by a variety of old tractors, combines and other equipment in various states of restoration.
One particular tractor, tucked in the corner of a large storage building that sits roughly in the centre of the fairgrounds, was an ongoing restoration project for five years, with various people working on it, McKenzie says.
That level of passion and effort is just one example of the volunteerism that goes on around the fairgrounds for much of the year, not just at spring and fall fair time. People with a variety of interests and passions regularly gather on the site with the good graces of the non-profit Farmers Institute, B.C.’s oldest such organization at 107 years old.
Besides the farm equipment club, space is also provided for the Triangle Athletic Association (youth baseball), the Vancouver Island Blacksmiths and the Luxton Market. As well, a museum-like display area displaying general antiques and items from past fairs and looked after by Institute volunteers is located on the upper floor of Middleton Hall, next to the equipment shed.
“The major thing with the Institute is, it has become a group of friends interested in keeping the fairs going and using the land for public purposes,” McKenzie says.
The Spring Fair, so renamed with the longstanding Luxton Pro Rodeo not part of the mix this year, offers a chance for the broader community to come out, have some fun at the midway, listen to local musicians and get a taste of the agricultural history of the area.
A souvenir programme on display in the museum documents the first fall fair put on by the Metchosin and Colwood Women’s Institute in September 1910. It promotes exhibits of various types of produce, “Women’s Work in All Branches,” school exhibits and arts and crafts displays, as well as a “Victor Gramophone Concert” and an address on the value of fairs.
McKenzie points out that a spring fair was the kind of thing that wouldn’t have happened in the old days, as farmers were still hard at work in the fields, seeding, planting and otherwise getting their land ready for the growing season.
“The fall fair (then and now) is where we actually show agriculture,” he says, from the fruits of farmers’ labours to the equipment used to harvest that bounty.
There is definitely a certain amount of crossover between the Institute’s two annual fairs. Both feature the work of such community groups as 4-H, as well as area practitioners of arts and crafts.
Financially, McKenzie admits, the rodeo has helped the Farmers’ Institute pay the bills that come with putting on a large community fair – despite the fact the vast majority of labour comes from volunteers.
Community groups don’t pay for their display space, and vendors renting tables to display their goods for sale only generate a modest amount of revenue.
Institute board member and longtime fair organizer Sandy West said with an expansion of the midway and opportunities to learn about local history, they’re hoping to appeal to the many new families that have moved into the area.
Country dance, midway part of Luxton tradition
Country music fans and those anxious to try the latest thrill rides will be among the attendees on the grounds at Luxton Fairgrounds this long weekend.
The midway opens its gates today (May 15) at 3 p.m. and runs until late night. Saturday and Sunday go from 1 p.m. to late night while Victoria Day Monday hours are 1 to 6 p.m.
The general grounds, with exhibits and demonstrations of antique farm equipment and blacksmithing, plus heritage displays, kids’ activities, concession stands and vendor booths, are open from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday.
The Saturday night dance features popular local band Montgomery County playing from 9 p.m. on. Attendees’ tickets will be entered into a draw for tickets to Rock the Shores, as well as other door prizes. Dance tickets are $20 each, available at Willow Wind Feed and Tack, 2714 Sooke Rd.