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Exhibitions of the West

When Grant MacEwan was a student at the Ontario Agriculture College, he became actively involved in judging livestock competitions. His team finished first at the prestigious Intercollegiate Championship at Toronto's Royal Winter Fair, and young MacEwan was awarded the highest aggregate score, earning his team the right to participate in the Chicago International Exposition. Not only did MacEwan excel at livestock judging, but he thoroughly enjoyed participating in every event.

R.H. Macdonald, a close friend of MacEwan and the author of one of his biographies, stated that one of MacEwan's first loves was the western Canadian exhibition in all its forms, large and small. He saw them as a wonderful form of entertainment where people could come together and learn about agriculture and livestock. Moreover, a local exhibition often stimulated the local economy by encouraging the sale of livestock commodities. An exhibition drew people from all over the province and showcased recent useful discoveries in the world of agriculture. The exhibition was an efficient way of introducing improved methods of farming and ranching to local farmers.

Cattle, horses, pigs, and poultry were all showcased at local fairs, with prize money awarded to the best in a class. Over time, exhibitions expanded to include a greater variety of livestock and to accommodate more participants. Brandon, Manitoba, MacEwan's hometown, was hosting exhibitions as early as the 1880s. The local fair was Brandon's busiest days of the year with over 1 000 entries participating. In addition, local dairy and produce were sold while women showcased their handiwork

MacEwan reveled in the prospect of judging local livestock exhibitions and would participate as often as possible; he spent several summers in Saskatchewan judging one event after the other. His knowledge and expertise earned him the reputation of one of Canada's best livestock judges. At 40, he was elected President of the Saskatoon Exhibition and soon became the organization's honorary manager. In his first year alone, he yielded the organization a profit of $27 000 - an impressive figure considering he was dealing with a wartime economy.


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