It dates back to the turn of the 20th century, so while no current residents of Brandon, Man., have attended every edition of the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, it has still been a lifelong event for many in and around Manitoba’s second-largest city.

Clint Swain, president of the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba, says he’s attended the agricultural showcase each of his 43 years.

“I’ve never missed a winter fair in Brandon,” Swain told Global Winnipeg. “A lot of years here. Growing up in Brandon, the fair was the best week of the year — the horses, the cattle and everything else.

“That’s where I fell in love with agriculture, was here at this fair.”

The annual event — one of only two such fairs in the country to receive a royal warrant — takes over the massive Keystone Centre in downtown Brandon each spring for a week of equestrian events, exhibitors, trade shows, live entertainment and more.

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For many of those who perform at the event, coming to Brandon over spring break is an annual tradition as well.

DooDoo the Clown performs around the world, and was even immortalized on screen in Adam Sandler’s 1995 comedy hit Billy Madison, but says the Brandon fair is a high point on his busy calendar each year.

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“This is my 30th year, and I look forward to it every year,” said Doo Doo, or Shane Faberman when he’s not in costume.

“It’s so much fun…. Everything is magical here. I really do love coming here. The people of Brandon and the surrounding areas, they come out here and they support it.

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“As a performer, the amount of work that goes into this is unbelievable. It makes me so proud to be a part of it.”

Click to play video: 'Agriculture front and centre at Royal Winter Fair in Manitoba'

Agriculture front and centre at Royal Winter Fair in Manitoba

The fair, with its focus on agriculture and livestock, received some negative attention ahead of its launch Monday, with the Winnipeg Humane Society and Animal Justice calling for a shutdown of the ‘animal scramble’ events, which they call inhumane.

“These events see the young animals brought into noisy, brightly lit unfamiliar arenas, where children and youth grab, chase and cling to them in a frenzied state,” the Humane Society said in a social media post last week.

“Calves and sheep are prey animals who experience fear, pain, and distress, as well as are put at risk of physical harm during such events.”

The organizations called on the province’s Chief Veterinary Office to investigate the events.

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Provincial Exhibition Association general manager Mark Humphries, however, told Global News that the events in question have been modified, in conjunction with the veterinary office, to reduce any impact on the animals.

“You’ll find those events extremely different to what people imagine them to be,” Humphries said. “This is about education — it’s about replicating what goes off in the barnyards and farmyards, it’s not traditional rodeo-type events.

“There’s no animals wrestled to the ground or even manhandled at all…. This is about allowing some small kids to approach the sheep through some chutes and the vet will be waiting at one end to actually judge the kids on how they do.

“The opinion they’ve got, I’m afraid, is totally wrong.”

The fair runs from Monday through March 30. A full list of events and attractions is available at the event’s website.

Click to play video: 'Ag Days 2024'

Ag Days 2024

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