|| A little
The Marquette Agricultural Society held its first
fair on October 16th, 1872. It was an unqualified
success and there was never any doubt about its
continuance. Portage had a population of 300 at that
time with stage coach service to Winnipeg and was
beginning to feel its importance as a new centre of
activity in the Dominion of Canada, which was
5 years old. It was mainly due to the efforts of
Kenneth McKenzie, the first president and a varied
exhibitor that the fair was held
The name of the fair
board changed to Portage and Lakeside Agricultural
Society and then on February 13th, 1907 the Portage
Industrial Exhibition was set up as a shareholder
company with one thousand shares.
The land was gifted to the Portagex for use of the
coming generations. The most striking feature of the
Portagex is it's location next to Island Park and it
ranks among the most attractive fair settings in
The fair was the result of an expressed interest in
the agricultural community. In 1923 it became a
Western Canada Fair which included a midway and
platform attractions. It soon became a family event,
the highlight of the year. Exhibitors camped in
tents, groomed themselves as best they could in cold
water from the pump. Livestock was groomed and
washed, stalls were decorated attractively and no
one thought of going to the fair without walking
through the barns and carefully viewing every entry
in the exhibition hall. Machinery displays were
extensive and Harness Racing was a regular feature
at the fair.
With less labor available, machinery companies
beginning to host field days and escalating
transportation costs, many exhibitors and companies
have chosen to limit their involvement to the larger
A Class Fairs. The present-day Board of Directors is
doing its best to deal with these changing factors.
The capable people in our agricultural community
realize that the story of agriculture must be
presented by those who know for the understanding
and support of urban residents who do not know what
farm life is like today. 4H groups are excellent
educational promotions as are Agriculture in the
Classroom programs. Fairs promote programs on
ecology and economy in agriculture that help to get
our message out.
The contrast between that far distant first fair and
the present makes interesting study. In most phases
of its operation the routine has changed very
little. For over 135 years the Portagex has
consistently presented a high standard of programs
A. The promotion and improvement of the livestock industry.
B. The demonstration of handicrafts of home cooking and
C. The display of industrial products.
D. The promotion of the arts and other cultural pursuits.
Throughout the years Portagex has lost barns and
exhibition buildings and a grandstand to fire, and
exhibition building to a cyclone and many exhibitors
to present day economic reality. We have rebuilt and
continued to look to the future as evidenced by our
addition of new office and washroom facilities.
Portagex is growing forward in the new millennium.