Russell Agricultural Society president Theresa Wever displays the new dates for the Scoiety’s annual fair. There are some concerns about changing the dates, but Wever says the board also sees opportunities. Van Dusen photo

RUSSELL – The Russell Agricultural Society has made the nerve-wracking decision to change the dates of its annual fair, moving from the first weekend after Labour Day to Aug. 13 -16.

Society president Theresa Wever said there was little choice in the matter after midway provider Robertson Amusements said it would no longer split between the Russell and Spencerville Fairs. Depending on the calendar, these two events often collide on the same September dates. Robertson, in fact, picked the new dates, telling Russell organizers they could only service them on the weekend following the Navan Fair.

“There are only two other midway companies left in Ontario and they’re both busy on our September weekend (Sept. 5-8 last year),” Wever explained. “The board even had discussions about possibly going ahead without a midway… in the end, nobody wanted to do that.”

The September dates have been a staple since the 1980s, changed from August after several years of bad weather: “In a sense, we’re returning to where we were on the Ontario fair schedule.”

The greatest concerns of any fair board when changing dates is losing the audience, jeopardizing certain attractions, and conflicting with other big events. Wever noted that the Vankleek Hill Fair is on the same August dates and, depending on the calendar, South Mountain would sometimes conflict. She felt that all three will be able to co-exist.

To help spread the word about the revised dates, the society plans to purchase more radio spots as well as expand other advertising. The greatest concern about attractions revolves around Russell Fair’s Education Days, expanded last year to include Saturday.

The event attracted hundreds of local students who were in a way a captive audience while school was in. With school out in August, Wever suggested students will still be drawn by the agricultural programming they’ve become accustomed to, and in fact, the plan now calls for Education Days to continue through Sunday.

“One advantage is that the university crowd is still around in August and we might be able to get them more involved in the fair. In September, they’ve left for their respective schools.”

With an accent on keeping the fair family oriented, Wever said the outlook of the board is generally positive with members seeing as many opportunities as challenges in changing dates.