ESTEVAN — The Estevan Exhibition Association (EEA) hosted its biggest event in many years with the Energy City Ex.
From June 8-11, the EEA invited the community to enjoy four days of the midway by Westcoast Amusements, three days of KCRA rodeo, the King of the Prairies Open Steer and Heifer Jackpot, hosted by Benson 4-H Beef Club, a cabaret with music by the Johner Brothers and Boys, as well as a kids' rodeo, rodeo queen competition and much more. The days were filled with smiles, laughter and happiness.
About 10,000 people passed through the gates in one capacity or another and took the opportunity to enjoy the entertainment offered at the exhibition grounds. EEA president Crystal Ross said they were overwhelmed with the support and success of the event.
"I am exhilarated and stunned at the same time. Beyond shocked. I'm overwhelmed by the community support of our four-day event," Ross said.
The EEA, which organizes the Energy City Ex, is a non-profit organization run solely by volunteers. There are 25 directors, support staff and honorary members who organized the four days of the Energy City Ex this year, and they had over 200 volunteers helping them to ensure everything runs as smoothly as it's ever been.
While they only had preliminary numbers at the time of the interview, it was already obvious that they were above the previous year's results, which made them feel confident about fair and rodeo plans for next year.
"The support from the community is overwhelming. And it gives us the opportunity to bring an even bigger 2024 Energy City Ex than 2023. The association is thrilled about the turnout. It exceeded our expectations," Ross said.
Not only were the outcomes great, but the feedback from participants and guests, volunteers and the community, has been very positive as well.
"We've had so many compliments about the grounds, about it being the best fair in years. We've had compliments from the midway themselves about our entire community … because our community is so welcoming and friendly," Ross shared. "When you put that all in the big picture, we have a lot to offer. And the community just opened its arms and gave us a big hug this weekend."
RM of Estevan Reeve Jason LeBlanc was among many people who took their compliments about the fair and rodeo to Facebook.
"At one time it was all an agricultural society and a huge community event with horse races, tractor pulls, several breeds of cattle, gardening, crafts, junior high marching bands, midway, tug-o-wars, ball games, rodeo and 4-H with the help of the Rotary Club. Community setup and community cleanup," LeBlanc wrote, explaining how and why the event then got gradually reshaped and turned into several separate smaller activities until recently.
"It's absolutely awesome to see community involvement again. Putting several events back on at the same time. A very clean and impressive midway, a packed community rodeo and cattle show. Community-involved gate guards and school parents and teachers stepping in for security. Plus, countless volunteers to prepare the grounds, run the gardens and put on the cabaret with the Johner Brothers.
"For $15 adult at the gate, it's very impressive in these troubled times to get a community together and have so many things to enjoy. Hats off to everyone involved. It's not easy to build for the next generation, please step in and get involved. Estevan has lots to be proud of."
Throughout all four days, the Estevan's Hearts and Hands Quilt Guild hosted a quilt show at the Exhibition Hall, displaying some of their great works along with pieces done by members of the Weyburn Crocus Quilting Guild. Quilts displayed different techniques, patterns, styles and talents of southeast quilters. Elaine from Manor, who stopped by to check out the quilt exhibition said the works were absolutely beautiful. As a quilter herself, she could see how complex the items were and spent a lot of time examining the details.
The guild also had some of their charity quilts on display. They've donated to St. Joseph's Hospital, the Estevan Regional Nursing Home, the United Way Estevan, Home Care Estevan and the Jim Pattison's Children Hospital, and are currently working on 12 quilts to go to Ronald McDonald House for cancer patients to use and take home when they are discharged. This is the first time they are making quilts for sick kids in the Saskatoon facility.
Angela Denys, the long-arm quilter, does most of the quilting for the guild and she donates all her work for charity quilts.
"It's just nice to be able to share your craft with the community," Denys said, noting that charity pieces open opportunities to use imagination and try things out, too.
The 2023 Energy City Ex wrapped up Sunday afternoon. West Coast Amusement left Estevan around 1 a.m. on Monday, and the cleanup of the grounds was nearing completion Monday afternoon.
"The phenomenal 25 people that are involved with this association are remarkable with how we can set up, host and clean up after events have left the city," Ross said. "I don't know how to express my gratitude for what has been accomplished in the last four days. And if you drive through the grounds right now, you would never know they were here.
"Our little association is exhausted but exhilarated at the same time and excited about 2024.
"[And we want to express] just a tremendous, huge amount of gratitude to where we live, where we call home because the support is just beyond measure. And a huge, huge thank you to the association members that were here, to the community, to the sponsors that make this place go around, to the countless volunteer hours, they are priceless, and to West Coast Amusements for bringing an awesome midway back to our association," Ross concluded.