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Markham Agricultural Fair

Markham Agricultural Fair

It’s not clear when the first Markham Fair was held, but there were fairs held in both Unionville and Markham by the mid 1850s.

A 45.7m by 15.2m, one-storey Agricultural Hall, or Crystal Palace, was eventually built within a fenced fairground on a farm owned by William Armstrong. Thousands of exhibitors and visitors learned of innovations in farm practices, took part in livestock, produce, and handcraft competitions and experienced the local farming community. Stalls, a grandstand, racetrack, ice rink, and exhibition hall, and other buildings were scattered across 12 hectares, making this site a landmark.

In 1873, more than 10,000 attended the fair. It was such a success that the Toronto newspapers described the Markham Fair as the fourth largest behind London, Guelph and Hamilton. The fairground was also used for sports such as lacrosse, baseball and hockey, along with other events such as travelling circuses. Parades along Main Street always ended at the site.

Plans for a new Crystal Palace and rink were in place by 1894. When finished, the new agricultural hall was two storeys, the lower floor was for vegetables and fruit, and the upper was for the “ladies’ exhibit.” The ice rink connected to the hall was the scene of many great hockey tournaments. In 1914, 3,000 people attended a match between Markham and the Riverside Hockey Club from Toronto.

Fair attendance soared and special trains brought visitors from north and south. The Methodist Church would feed 500 and 600 people, and many village residents opened their homes for the occasion. Hotels did a roaring trade.

On March 10, 1916, fire destroyed the ice rink, agricultural hall and ticket office. John Miller of Unionville was hired to build a new rink and agricultural hall later that year.

In 1977 the fairground was relocated to McCowan Road near Elgin Mills Road and the Markham Fair continues to be held every October. The Markham Public Library stands where the former fairground once was.