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Resurgence (1899-1909)

New adventures were awaiting the Edmonton Agricultural Society (EAS) between 1899 and 1909, a time that has come to be known as the resurgence period.

Honour roll listingAt the turn of the century, the increasingly sophisticated organization was seeking a permanent site. Klondike fever had thrust the city into a boom and attracted resources that benefited the EAS. Members decided to incorporate in 1899 and collected the pledges of 117 people who felt the society’s existence and public displays would contribute to the greater good of the community. Change in organizational functioning led to a renaming, and the society came to be known as the Edmonton Industrial Exhibition Association (EIEA).

A poster advertising the exhibitionAn important organizational shift denoted by the new name was the group’s embracement of a role in areas of commerce and culture that reached beyond rural based practices. This did not decrease the group’s popularity in the least, and in 1908, the organization (then 97 members strong) secured its charter and again renamed itself—this time becoming the Edmonton Exhibition Association (EEA).

Wishing to demonstrate its permanence, a new location was sought following negotiations with the Edmonton Board of Trade and the Hudson’s Bay Company for acquisition of the Rossdale Flats property overlooking the North Saskatchewan River. These 55 acres hosted the 1900 Dominion Day Celebration (drawing a crowd of 3,500 people) and remained the official exhibition site until 1910.

"Railbirds" on the Rossdale racetrackThoroughbred racing drew a dedicated crowd at the time of the EIEA’s move, so it was not surprising when the newly constructed racetrack and grandstand were used at capacity for the historical Dominion celebration marking Canada’s 36th birthday. 

Newly connected riverbanks allowed for ease of movement through the Low Level Bridge leading directly into the exhibition’s vicinity. With scheduled trains servicing the exhibition throughout the day, more people had an opportunity to attend the festivities. In a matter of a few years, Donald Ross’s once-flooded estate had been developed into a prosperous and exciting public venue.

New facets to the exhibition surged during the EIEA’s renewal. Exhibitor cattle pens and racehorse stalls were new additions to the volunteer association’s facilities and were complemented by natural resting spots for the many animals competing for prize money. Platform attractions included performances by aerial artists, musical performers, juggling acts, unicyclists, high divers, and football games between the "fat" and "lean" men. A band tournament offering a $100 CDN prize drew bands from as far as Banff, providing exhibition goers with daily musical pleasures.

A parade down McDougall HillMore cause for celebration came when Alberta was made a province in 1905, and Edmonton was declared its capital. Dignitaries arrived in the city and local residents were full of energetic delight. Seizing the moment before them, the EIEA hosted a parade to mark this occasion and, with a rush of confidence, decided that with its growing prominence, it needed more space to continue developing its capacity.

During the organization's resurgence period, the City of Edmonton, had begun envisioning the Rossdale site as a potential power plant. Given the amiable relationship between the two parties, a deal was struck. The EIEA sold Rossdale Flats to the city for $60,000 CDN, and while the transfer of land was recorded in 1907, the exhibition grounds remained at the site for another two years.

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