The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair – Where Country Comes to the City

I have always believed that people who live in urban areas should find time to visit the country.  It’s the countryside surrounding our cities where much of our food is grown and raised, and it’s the countryside that acts as both a buffer from sprawl and a counterbalance to a fast-paced, high-density way of life.  Visiting the country is as much of an educational experience as it can be a recreational one.  But for many it isn’t so easy to just walk out from their high-rise condo and venture out to a pasture or grazing field outside their city limits.

That’s why every November in Toronto, the country likes to come and visit the city.

Photo: Eric Novak

Photo: Eric Novak

From November 3rd – 12th, the 95th edition of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair will take place at Exhibition Place.  The Royal began in 1922 and is the world’s largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian event. Whether you are into world-class competition, learning about locally-sourced food or getting up-close to show animals on their own turf, The Royal has something for everyone, making it a perennial favourite for close to a century.

(Psst…keep reading to the end.  You’ll find details about a giveaway I’m running there.)

“Since its humble beginnings 95 years ago, The Royal has grown into a beloved Toronto tradition and an arena of excellence for culinary arts, agriculture and equine sport,” said Charlie Johnstone, Chief Executive Officer, The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. “From top chefs and food producers offering the best in the farm-to-table movement to decorated Olympian equestrians competing for a place on The Royal podium, the Fair is a celebration and recognition of the best that Canada has to offer the world.”

While any fair that has thrived for 95 years likely has a time-tested formula for success, it’s equally important to bring in new components each year so that people will keep coming back.  The 2017 edition of The Royal does just that with a list of new features and attractions that include:

Classic Apple Turnovers Photo: Eric Novak

Classic Apple Turnovers. Photo: Eric Novak

Burnbrae Farms and Food Lifestyle Stage: Join Indigenous Chef David Wolfman for an indigenous fusion cooking demonstration on November 5th. Thinking of trading the rat race for greener pastures? You won’t want to miss Brent Preston. Brent left Toronto to start a vegetable farm in Creemore, Ontario and will regale guests with his adventures in farming while Momofuku Diashou’s Paula Navarrete cooks up some great food for audience members to sample.

Farm To Table Discovery Zone: Meet beekeepers, find out how greenhouses work and take a virtual reality tour of a dairy farm at the new Farm To Table Discovery Zone. Offering interactive, fun and educational experiences for the whole family, fairgoers can see, touch and taste their way through all the steps in growing and supplying local foods.

Birds of Prey Demonstrations: Believe it or not, hawks and owls play a very important role in modern agriculture. For the first time ever, The Royal will host a series of daily birds of prey demonstrations to thrill fairgoers and illustrate the relationship between farmers and their feathery friends.

Photo: Eric Novak

Photo: Eric Novak

A Place to Grow: One-in-eight people are employed in Canada’s agricultural industry and A Place to Grow is an interactive, chronological walk through the past, present and future of this important part of our country’s fabric. Presented by the University of Guelph and supported by Ontario150, guests get a first-hand look at early indigenous food production, an introduction to the science and innovation in present-day agriculture and see how food gets from Ontario fields to the world’s dinner tables.

(Don’t forget the giveaway at the end.)

But for regular attendees of the fair, don’t worry, you’ll still be able to catch their prized classics such as Butter sculpting, Ontario Toyota Dealers Rodeo and the K9 Equine Relay featuring the President’s Choice SuperDogs. There will also be a lot of opportunities to wine, dine and unwind. From the Craft Beer and Cider Awards to The Royal Wine Competition there is more than one way to sip, sample and savour great local food and beverages at The Royal.

2014 Butter sculpting entrant. Photo: Eric Novak

2014 Butter sculpting entrant. Photo: Eric Novak

Boots and Hearts is back with their Emerging Artist showcase at The Royal. Check out Canada’s best up and coming country artists; winner Jade Egleson and finalists Emma Wright and Josh Ross performing live on Friday, November 3rd.

And of course, there are the horses.

The Royal Horse Shows hosts more than 1,000 competitors and offers $1 million in prize money over the course of its ten-day run. International show jumping athletes make their way to Toronto from all corners of the world to compete in the $130,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Toronto on Wednesday evening, November 8th. This year top ranked international competitors will include Olympians, Kent Farrington, and McLain Ward, ranked #1 and #3 in the world respectively.

Photo by Ben Radvanyi Photography (CNW Group/Royal Agricultural Winter Fair)

Photo by Ben Radvanyi Photography (CNW Group/Royal Agricultural Winter Fair)

In addition to international competition, the $100,000 Canadian Show Jumping Championship returns in 2017. Top-ranked Canadian riders, including 12-time winner and defending champion Ian Millar of Perth, ON, will go head-to-head over two days on November 3rd and 4th, with the winner being crowned the Canadian Show Jumping Champion.

Details on everything noted above and more can be found on the Fair’s website by visiting


This year, not only will I be bringing my family to visit The Royal, but for the 1st time I’m also going to be visiting before the show actually opens to the public.  I’ve always wondered what it must be like to set up a fair as large and complex as this, so this year I’m going to bring my video gear along while the show is being set up and I’m going to prepare a special behind-the-scenes look at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair which I will share with my readers as well as my You Tube Channel subscribers while the show is running – so stay tuned for that!


I’m giving away 2 sets of 4 tickets each to attend the 95th Royal Winter Fair.  AND AS A BONUS, to make it easier to get there and back I’m also including a GO Transit Family Pass with each package.  Exhibition GO Station is just steps away so why worry about driving down when you can enjoy an easy commute by train instead!  The giveaway runs until October 31st and to enter, just click on the Rafflecopter giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Eric Novak

About Eric Novak

Eric Novak is a father of 4 who also thinks that environmental stewardship is a requisite of parenting. He's not a professional Dad nor is he an environmental scientist, but he's someone who gives a damn and is trying to make the right decisions as he lives his life as a father, environmentalist and business owner. Eric and his wife Karen have 4 children and reside in Ajax, Ontario.