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Farm Livin’ is the Life for Me: Where Toronto Previews the 98th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair

For the next ten days, from November 4 to 13, the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place becomes a little less convention centre and a little more barnyard, as it hosts the 98th edition of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. We got a sneak peek at some of what’s on show at this year’s Fair, in the process acquainting our city selves with a bit of the country. By Rasheed Clarke

We crunched through scattered strands of hay and sidestepped splats of manure on our way to see cowboys practicing their riding technique on a bull of the mechanical variety. After a ride of our own on the spinning, bucking machine, Royal Rodeo organizer Ross Millar assured us that the 2,000-pound bulls featured in the Royal Rodeo (Sunday, November 6) will prove more of a challenge to the professional riders. The event, at the adjacent Ricoh Coliseum, pits top riders from across Canada against each other in barrel racing, bronco busting and bull riding competitions.

Next, we walked around the cattle barn and watched farmers trimming, washing and blow drying their livestock with all the attention to detail a Yorkville stylist would put into your coiffure. While the grooming sessions continued around us, we got intimate with an Ontario dairy cow. A few udder squeezes and there was enough milk (unpasteurized, natch) for a pot of coffee.

After dusting off our boots, we made our way to a set of showcases displaying prize-winning cheeses. It’s a shame they were under glass! We did, however, get close to a nearby block of butter and tried our hands at butter sculpting. Well, more like chiseling. The real sculptors will have their artistic creations judged next Thursday.

With butter carving crossed off our bucket list, we strolled the rest of the grounds and got a glimpse of the fair’s many other attractions: gargantuan vegetables, llamas and goats and ponies in the petting zoo, new products for city slickers and farmhands alike, and tasty treats made from local ingredients.

Yes, we can say from experience that this year’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is loaded with rural-style merriment. Plus, there’s the little matter of the Royal Horse Show, which runs for the duration of the fair at Ricoh Coliseum. This year’s show includes equestrian performances from Olympic gold medalists Eric Lamaze and Mark Todd, and former Toronto Maple Leafs Darcy Tucker, Curtis Joseph and Darryl Sittler trade their sticks for mallets in a game of “horse hockey.”

For more information on the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and the Royal Horse Show, and to purchase tickets, call 416-263-3400 or click here.

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