Having a fairly good time

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Spring is in the air! And oh boy, a fair is in the air at the Keystone Centre.

My first Royal Manitoba Winter Fair experience was in 1984. After just moving to Brandon from Toronto. I was overwhelmed with the sights, sounds and smells. Especially the smells.

The Winter Fair works your olfactory senses as much as your ocular muscles. From the warm sweetness of the food carts — mmm, mini-donuts — to the earthy farmyard aroma in the stables, the Winter Fair is one very large, very entertaining spectacle.

Day 1 of the 109th Royal Manitoba Winter Fair kicked off with very strong attendance. I’ve never seen so many people at the Sunrise Breakfast (which leads off my photo story below).

“The first day of the fair was great,” Provincial Exhibition GM Ron Kristjansson, said in one of the daily releases from what is a very efficient communications crew. “The weather was fantastic and we were thrilled with the turnout for the start of fair week.”

I took some pictures of the unlikely duo of Brandon West PC Party MLA Reg Helwer and Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell chatting and greeting visitors at the door. The duo are in the middle of a gruelling provincial election. Oh, and Caldwell is the guy wearing the black hat (no comment).

And what would a fair be without the venerable Doodles the Clown, who I caught in action at the breakfast. Onstage were the very bouncy Team T&J.

I walked through the barns and Petting Zoo, before returning later to catch the opening night ceremonies. Mayor Rick Chrest and his wife Karen Chrest were some of the dignitaries who entered Westman Place in a horse-drawn carriage.

A Guard of Honour, comprised of soldiers, sailors and aviators from CFB Shilo, with representatives from the Brandon Cadet Corps, were on parade. Special guests from the Winnipeg Infantry Tactical Group rappelled from the ceiling to present Kathy Cleaver, president of the Provincial Ex with the CFB Shilo flag along with the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba flag.

All very cool and all very well organized.

One of Brandon’s most talented pop/rock singer/songwriters, Mariah Phillips, of the band Misty Street sang the national anthems pitch perfect.

Then came the evening’s program in a fairly full arena. I chose to photograph the horse jumping — a rather difficult sport to image when indoors.

For photo buffs, when I was first shooting the fair in 1984, I was using Nikon gear with a limited selection of slow, prime manual focus lenses and Ilford HP5 400 speed film, which I would push-process in the darkroom to 1,600 or 3,200. The lighting in the Keystone Arena back then was brutal — low intensity and severe drop-off in the corners of the rink. The results weren’t great.

This week, I was using my very advanced Sony RX10ii cameras, which have an attached auto-focus lens that optically zooms from a 35 mm equivalent of 24mm – 200mm, with digital zoom then seamlessly taking over to around 400 mm — all at a fairly fast f2.8 aperture. While these cameras are described as “prosumer,” I’m getting a real kick out how wonderfully they work. And at a fraction of the weight and cost of the traditional professional Nikon or Canon gear.

My cameras can easily be set to the 35mm equivalent 3,200 speed or higher without any noticeable digital noise. And the arena is so much cleaner and brighter than it was 30 years ago.

Anyhow, here are some of my images from earlier this week. I hope you enjoy them.

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Rick Crest Mayor Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB

Royal Manitoba Winter Fair Brandon MB