“Are you going to the Royal?” That’s the question asked in horse barns, dairy farms, and downtown Toronto at the beginning of November. The Royal Winter Fair ,held every November in Toronto,is the world’s largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show.Exhibitors and competitors come from all over North America and for the Royal Horse Show from Europe as well. Opening in 1922 it had 22,000 visitors that year. Now it has over 300,000! In the ten days of the Fair there are 2,000 agricultural competitions and over 5,000 animals. And….1,100 pounds of cheese entered into competition at the Royal in 2016!
Basically the Royal has it all. Shopping, animals large and small , vegetable huge and diminutive, cheese of all kinds, and a world class horse competition with jumpers, dressage, hunters, heavy horse, hackney ponies. Where else can you see all of that? Parents with infants in strollers, wide eyed school children and adults of all ages can walk through the Horse Palace and stand next to the 2000 pound giants of the horse world.They can watch them being groomed and harnessed and hitched to the wagons. Then comes the thunderous clatter over the cement floors as these magnificent horses walk on their dinner plate sized and metal shod hooves toward the competition ring. Parents hastily pull back the strollers, children scuttle a safe distance back and the adults watch with wonder. These gentle giants look down from their lofty height with a kind eye on the spectators.
If you visit the Royal here are a few of the things you will see.
Sheep and wool competition.
1000 pound pumpkins and small squash and bizarre carrots!
Shopping for the equestrian and for the farmer and for the adventurous.
Dairy cattle, beef cattle and cattle auctions. Millions of dollars change hands for these valuable , prize winning cows. A Royal win can increase the value of an animal by 25-50 percent.
Education programs for the hundreds of schoolchildren who visit the Royal.
Shops with lots of Christmas gifts to buy for the younger horse lovers.
And then there is the Royal Horse Show. This is chance to see horses that are not in every horse show. The harness, the wagons, the tremendous work put into the grooming of the horses is something to see.
Clydesdale waiting to be hitched up to the wagon.
At the other end of the spectrum…..the Hackney ponies!
There is also international jumping competition, and dressage.
While waiting for the competition you can get your photo taken with an Olympic rider like Belinda Trussell who was signing autographs at the Paramount Saddlery stand.
If you do not want a live horse there is plenty of horse inspired artwork for sale.
Finally something I have not seen anywhere else…..the Butter Sculptures. The sculpting is done inside a refrigerated room but you can see through the glass and watch the sculpting. This one ,called “counting sheep”, won First Prize.
And that , Ladies and Gentleman, is the Royal Winter Fair. If you are in or near Toronto in early November this is something not to be missed.