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Northlands Park - Memories Worth Keeping
community events

Wars and Interwar (1914-1950)

A girl sings a patriotic songAs a pivotal community member, the Edmonton Exhibition Association (EEA) was directly affected by the First and Second World Wars. These effects occurred over a significant stretch of time, from 1915 to about 1950, which the EEA referred to as the wars and interwar period.

Having well-equipped and spacious facilities to offer, the EEA grounds became a training camp and home to the military, specifically the 49th and 66th Battalions. With commotion and insecurity in the air, activities such as leisure were quickly declining in importance. Sensing changing concerns, EEA executive board members took it upon themselves to publicize the importance of agricultural work, especially in relation to the support of troops.

Harness races with mulesIn addition to the responsibility of assisting military personnel, the EEA continued with some of its primary activities such as the summer exhibition. This required negotiation and adaptation so that occupying personnel and public guests could all be accommodated.

Association members viewed the grounds' occupation as a duty to the community, and considered the military presence an attraction for exhibition visitors. Indeed, much to the public’s delight, the fair even hosted a half-mile foot race for soldiers to participate in.

Featured Video: Dusen discussses military occupation of the exhibition grounds

Bryce van Dusen, who had long-time involvement with Northlands Park, discusses military occupation of the exhibition grounds. Watch Now

All told, the 51st, 66th, 138th, 194th, 202nd, and 218th Battalions passed through the exhibition facilities during the First World War. Accepting its task with pride, the EEA organized a weeklong fall homecoming celebration for returning soldiers in 1919.

Organizational growth had been stalled during the war and interwar period, in part because of the Depression. The Women's BuildingDuring that time, a single addition was made to the exhibition's structure in the form of the Women's Building that acknowledged the growing role of women in public affairs. Community events had been slowed down, but the EEA continued to provide events well into the earliest years of the Second World War.

With a second war, the EEA's participation was required once again. The Sales Ring was occupied as a supply depot, putting the association in a position of balancing the military's needs with those of its members and Northern Alberta agriculturalists. War pressures led the federal government to withdraw its grants to the EEA in 1941, but despite this, resolute board members agreed to keep the organization going as normally as possible.

Featured Video: Hole discusses changes to echibition grounds

Harry Hole discusses changes to the exhibition grounds during the war years. Watch Now

Adjusting to the situation at hand, and unafraid to use humour, exhibition organizers arranged mule harness races and created new fun that conformed to the times. With other previously regular events waning, the summer exhibition's importance could not be underestimated, as it was the association’s key source of money to carry it through the year.

The 66th Overseas BattalionMore change came to the exhibition grounds in 1941, when the Department of National Defence sent the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) to convert EEA facilities into a manning depot. During this period, association revenue took a blow, as events admission prices were reduced due to less attractions being offered. Despite valiant efforts, the EEA board decided to cancel the exhibition in 1943. Agricultural activities occurred in a more limited fashion.

1944 was somewhat of a transition, with huge numbers of military personnel returning home to housing and job shortages. Providing assistance on both of these matters, the EEA converted several exhibition ground buildings into temporary rental spaces, and provided re-employment and employment conditions for ex-service people.

A Red Cross DisplayThe wars and interwar period was difficult for the EEA, and the country as a whole. Fortunately, various parties worked together to make conditions as manageable as possible. To celebrate extensive collaboration between the association and various military folk, an air show was presented by the RCAF, in conjunction with the EEA, in 1946. After the war had resumed, some soldiers continued reciprocating by exhibiting displays and helping out at exhibitions throughout the years.

Featured Audio: Stinson demonstrates military techniques

Katherine Stinson demonstrates First World War military flight techniques.
Listen Now

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Wars and Interwar

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