This article is from the August 2017 Issue of Forever Young

 2017 august feature image


By Glenna Turnbull

Coming up August 30 to September 3, it’s the 116th annual Interior Provincial Exhibition in Armstrong. Better known as the IPE, each year’s fair has a theme and this year, it’s Field to Plate – something that makes perfect sense given the agricultural roots of the fair and its notoriety for good food!

It’s unofficial theme however, could easily be the reverse – Plate to Field, thanks to Spa Hills Composting and a huge group of enthusiastic kids.

Keli Westgate of Spa Hills Composting first had the idea to start collecting compostable items from the fair two years ago and, working on her own, was able to divert approximately 1000 pounds of waste that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. Then last year, she decided to amp it up and with the help of 52 volunteers from the Silver Star Elementary school, they diverted a whopping 7000 pounds of waste from the trash and turned it into compost.

“The kids were great,” noted Keli, adding, “The ‘ick’ factor only lasted about five minutes, then it became a game to see just how much we could collect. They worked through rainstorms, blazing heat and dust.”

The Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions was so impressed, it awarded the 2016 CAFE Innovation Award to the IPE – a massive honour given the hundreds upon hundreds of annual fairs and exhibitions in Canada.

“This year, we’re aiming for 10,000 pounds,” said Keli. But in order to do so, they’re not only relying on fair-goers to cooperate but the 50 plus volunteers out there collecting material.

Composting is not the only place where you’ll find volunteers hard at work during the IPE. Because the fair is the biggest fundraiser of the year for many local non-profit organizations, it is all hands on deck for their volunteers to make the most of the five-day event. Last year’s event attracted more than 150,000 people through the gates and created an economic spin-off of more than $8 million for the area.

According to Yvonne Paulsen, general manager of the IPE, there are at least 30 different service groups who have volunteers working at the fair to keep it running smoothly. From the Cadets who volunteer to take care of garbage and recycling to the churches who run concessions, it is all done on donated time to help fund their organizations.

Planning and organizing an annual fair that size is no small task and when Yvonne took over the position last August, she hit the ground running. “What better than to just get thrown in,” she laughed. “It had already been organized so it was just a matter of execution. Now I know what to expect this year when we’re just three weeks out from the fair and what the pace will be like.”

Some of the new things Yvonne has helped implement since taking over include the brand new website which enables the public to buy advance tickets and ride bracelets online at a reduced rate. “People can also take part in the pre-sale at Askews, the grocery store here in Armstrong, and the one in Salmon Arm as well as a few other retailers.

You’ll also notice the food vendors are no longer under the grandstands due to safety issues and time changes in a few events. “We have a new start time for the rodeo at 7 p.m. (one hour earlier) because a number of families had expressed that they’d had to leave before it ended,” said Paulsen.

For those who aren’t too tired after the rodeo, also new to the IPE this year is illusionist Sean Watson, who will perform nightly starting at 9:15 p.m. on the Ram Truck Stage. “We’ve never had an illusionist before,” noted Yvonne, and the show is included free with price of admission to the fairgrounds.

Start times have also changed for the SunFM Youth Vocal Talent Competition. Previously, the kids would be competing not only against themselves, but against the noise and popularity of the rodeo, which ran simultaneously. “You could imagine as a young performer how difficult that would be,” noted Yvonne. So the competition will now take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

New on the agricultural side of the fair is a the Canadian Simmental Association’s Award of Excellence program, designed to promote and recognize the top bulls and females in the Simmental breed that are exhibited at shows across the country. Also, the BC Goat Association will be holding their Canadian West National Goat Show on the grounds.

“We are also celebrating 150 years of agriculture in Canada and that coincides with Canada’s birthday,” said Yvonne. As such, on Thursday there will be party in the Canada pavilion on the fairgrounds with various dance groups, a big birthday cake and lots of family oriented activities.

Every year, the IPE picks a charity of choice to support and this year, proceeds will go to the Armstrong Royal Canadian Legion. “There will be a 50/50 draw at the rodeo on Sunday, and 50% goes to them,” said Yvonne, “and also, during week, the 4H club has an auction and the some of that money also goes towards our charity of choice as well.”

For advance tickets and schedules, go online to