Ed Hinkley remembers walking the midway at the Chilliwack Fair as a youngster, recalling vividly the sights, sounds and the smells that made the annual event so special.
When he sees a child running through the crowd now with an ear-to-ear grin and cotton candy in hand, he sees himself.
“I remember putting my rabbit in the fair, putting projects in the fair, getting that blue ribbon that probably every kid in my age group got,” he said with a smile. “It was an experience for me and an inexpensive local outing for my parents.”
Hinkley is 35 years old now, and all this time the Chilliwack Fair has continued to hold a place in his heart.
Three years ago, he became a director, joining the 18-member group that organizes British Columbia’s second longest running fair (since 1873 and counting).
Two years ago Hinkley was elevated to the role of president, giving him the opportunity to push harder on some of his ideas.
Hinkley has watched Chilliwack change dramatically since he was a child, when the vast majority of the populace was tied into agriculture.
“Back in the day, 90 per cent of the population was in agriculture, and people were interested in it,” Hinkley estimated. “Now it’s maybe five per cent. Chilliwack was built on farming, but a lot of people living here now have absolutely no ties to agriculture. So we need things that appeal to their way of life.”
It’s not re-inventing so much as modernizing.
Hinkley wants to maintain the strong agricultural presence, but he also sees BMX and skateboarding displays, musical acts and roller derby.
He sees everyone in Chilliwack visiting the fair, as opposed to the 20,000 or so who do now (over three days).
“The big issue is with the community buy-in, because anything we try to bring to the fair costs money,” he said. “Getting city support with funds, or individual support with attendance and sponsorship, is key to getting the features and providing the shows that people want to watch.”
Hinkley works at it several hours a week, 52 weeks a year, trying to make his vision a reality.
Who can say for certain what the future holds. But if energy and dedication count for anything, the Chilliwack Fair is in very good hands.