Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo along with a few neighs, snorts and a whinny means it’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair time.
The venerable fair, now marking its 90th year, brings the country to the city big time now through Nov. 11 at Exhibition Place in Toronto.
This annual down-on-the-farm treat is billed as the “world's largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show.”
And, if big veggies are your thing, such as massive pumpkins and squashes, this is the place.
Rural roots are showing
It all began in 1922 with a small group of farmers eager to catch-up with each other after the busy fall harvest.
Since then, the Royal has grown into Canada's premier event for showcasing the best in agricultural products and innovations, adding a top-rate horse show, dog show and other diverse entertainment along the way.
This year includes equestrian Olympians, appearances by culinary celebrities in competition and a pub crawl tonight (Nov. 3) led by Thirsty Traveller show host Kevin Brauch.
“We encourage families to visit the animal and farm fun, and harvest exhibits during the day but also invite those parents – and all adults – back to the Royal to explore the shopping, restaurants and nightlife,” said CEO Sandra Banks.
Children will be “in constant awe” of the animals from ponies to piglets along with rabbit jumping that sees “bunnies bounding over significant heights,” she added.
Similar to something out of Gulliver's Travels, Jonathan Swift's satirical novel first published in 1726, are the one-tonne pumpkins and eggplant, big beets and gigantic turnips in competition for the biggest of the big.
Cooks, cocktails and aggies
The annual Royal Chef Challenge is now a multi-day event with the Food Network’s Bob Blumer the host on Sunday (Nov. 4).
Padma Lakshmi of TV’s Top Chef hosted the opening-night challenge and a wine tasting on Friday.
Using ingredients from the fair's prize-winning list of local products, the challenge final is on Nov. 10 hosted by Australian chef Curtis Stone of Around the World in 80 Plates.
Toronto chefs taking part include Roberto Fracchioni of the Templar Hotel; Duff Lampard, Westin Harbour Castle Hotel; Bruno Lopez, Ritz Carlton; Robert Mills of the Thompson Hotel; Kevin Prendergast, Hilton Hotel; and Colin Thornton of the Royal York.
Rounding out the culinary events, Blumer and Brauch host the Royal Mixology Competition on Nov. 5 with participants vying to create the finest cocktail using local ingredients.
“The livestock and agricultural competitions – such as the beef and dairy cattle shows and the giant vegetables – remain at the core of the Royal and continue to draw in huge crowds eager to see real farm life up close,” said publicist Tiffany Fisher.
The Royal Rodeo, hosted by Amber Marshall of the Canadian TV drama Heartland, is on Sunday (Nov. 4) and features barrel racing and bronc, bareback and bull riding.
There will be performances by the Canadian Cowgirls, an elite precision drill team, “that will dazzle the audience with their daring and dangerous manoeuvres.”
Called the “most prestigious and important indoor equestrian event in North America,” the Royal Horse Show features world-renowned riders competing in Olympic disciplines.
These include show jumping, dressage as well as the Royal's indoor events in the Ricoh Coliseum.
There is also the SuperDogs show that draws huge crowds to see the dancing and daredevil canines with several performances daily.
Enjoy sampling some tasty treats at the Journey to Your Good Health pavilion with an abundant bounty of locally grown food and learn the latest trends in “functional foods and innovation.”
Still hungry? The fair’s menus feature local delights at the Royal Court restaurant, Tanbark Club and the Hitching Ring Cafe and Bar.
Need to know
- The Royal is Exhibition Place, 100 Princes’ Blvd., Toronto.
- It opens daily at 9 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m., except Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. and the final day Nov. 11 at 6 p.m.
- Admission is $20; $16, seniors, 60 plus, and ages five to 17 (younger children, free); $44, family pass, two adults, two children. Horse show tickets are from $38 to $57 and include admission to the fair. Royalfair.org; (416) 263-3400