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It's Fair Weather
on Vancouver Island & the Gulf Islands

“Baa-ram-ewe, baa-ram-ewe. To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true. Sheep be true. Baa-ram-ewe.”

When my children were young I could not wait for the annual round of Fall Fairs to begin on Vancouver Island. It was a perfect family outing and as I would wander the livestock enclosures with my boys in tow I just could not help myself from reciting this enchanting line from Babe. As September returns, it’s time to find yourself eye to eye with a wooly ram, a Heresford heifer or some prettily plumed hens. And then there are the displays of prize-winning jams and jellies and pies and cakes and breads all lined up with their shiny ribbons. So grab your gumboots (well, any shoes will do really) and come on down.

These wonderful agricultural fairs hearken back to a day when the skills needed for canning & preserving, tending livestock and the practical arts of knitting, sewing and baking bread were practiced by many more of us than in today’s fast paced, ready-to-wear, take-out world. Recently though, economic realities and a growing awareness of the importance of where our food and other goods come from has lead to a renaissance in our appreciation for these valuable skills.

There is so much to see and do at the fair… even if it’s just people (& animal) watching! Feel the earth shake as a team of draft horse thunder by; watch a sheep shearing contest; milk a goat; guess how much that HUGE hog really weighs; admire the perfect stitching of a handmade quilt; grab a ride on a ferris wheel; eat a hot, buttery cob of corn; listen to some banjo picking; and watch the sheep dogs round ’em up… there is pure magic to be enjoyed by all at a fair!

Upcoming Fall Fairs

Saanich Fair
September 5, 6 & &

This is the 142nd annual Fall Fair for Saanich and with all that practice you would expect it to be great… and it is! If you have already sent in your entry form for their Great Canadian Duct Tape Contest, it is likely you know all about the Saanich Fair, but if not, be ready to take in everything from draft horse teams and alpacas to giant pumpkins, scarecrow making contests, sheep-to-shawl demos, the midway, miniature horse shows, fancy pigeon classes and highland dancing!

Lighthouse Country Fall Fair
Saturday, September 5th, 2009

“All children's activities on the fairgrounds are FREE including pony rides, petting zoo, bouncy castles, organized kids games and face painting. We encourage community participation on all levels for our exhibits from the giant tomatoes, arts and crafts to the kid's freak vegetables. This year's fair theme is How Green is Your Garden.” 

Alberni District Fall Fair
September 10, 11, 12 & 13

Originating in the 1930s, this fair has not only been showcasing local agricultural products, livestock, crafts, canning & preserves, but has served as a social event for the residents of the Alberni Valley, their friends, family and neighbours for many years. I can still remember my first ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl in the early ‘70s and wandering with my friends past all the livestock displays! This fair also hosts a Logger Sports Day including the Ladies Axe Throwing Canadian Championships, tree climbing and log burling.

Sooke Fall Fair
September 12-13

The fair celebrates its 96th year with yet another showcase for agricultural pursuits in the region. This year marks the ‘International Year of Natural Fibres’ so watch for lots of special displays and events surrounding this theme, including a raffle for a beautiful quilt created by the Sooke Quilters Guild. As usual, there will be something for everyone with competitions and displays in produce, flowers, kitchencraft, needlecraft, hobbies, photography, art & literary art, wine & beer, poultry, rabbits and cavies, and honey.

Mount Waddington Regional Fall Fair (Port Hardy)
September 12-13

Friendship Grows at the Fair in Port Hardy this year providing “a chance to celebrate our achievements and to showcase our local talent—as a community, as a gathering of neighbours, and as individuals.” So plan on joining the North Island communities as they display their best in flowers, vegetables, home baking and preserves, art & photography, needlework and crafts.

Luxton Fall Fair
September 18-20

The Metchosin Farmers’ Institute organizes this three-day event that includes fiddling contests, steam tractors, blacksmithing displays, and a mud-pit belly flop competition as well as the usual agricultural components and the fun of the midway rides. The Fair actively encourages people (especially children) to learn more about agriculture and livestock, baking and preserving of food, sewing and needlework, as well as leisure arts.

Salt Spring Island Fall Fair
September 19-20

The theme for this year’s longtime Island favourite (the fair originated in 1896) is Show Up, Show Off & Celebrate. And that they will, with over 1,500 entries expected in categories including livestock, horticulture, homemade wines and foods, hobbies and crafts. There will be the popular farmer’s marketplace, food vendors, live entertainment, horse shows, a midway and a free shuttle service running between Ganges (where the ferry comes in) and the fairgrounds.

As summer comes to a close, it is time to take stock… to bring in the last of the season’s harvest and to celebrate the bounty of the earth and there is no better time & place to do just that, than at a Fall Fair on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands!


Fresh & Warm from the Oven...

nibble your way from one end of the Island to the other at these scrumptious Vancouver Island Bakeries.

If the scent of freshly baked bread drives you to distraction, and the mere thought of a cinnamon & raisin studded bun or a slice of rhubarb pie sets your mouth to watering, then yes, an Island bakery might just be one of your favourite places to visit on your next trip to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. From iconic shops that have been serving freshly baked goods to Islanders for generations to a new wave of hip, organic and wholefood centred enterprises, Island bakeries are sure to delight all of your senses!

Victoria has a wealth of fabulous bakeries to share with visitors. The Dutch Bakery on Fort Street is a local institution and has seen three generations of the Schaddelee family manning the mixers, creating fine cakes and pastries. Try their vanilla slices or petit fours to satisfy that sweet tooth in style. Founded in 1887, Willie’s Bakery & Café on Johnson Street was BC’s oldest family owned and operated bakery until it closed in 1976. It re-opened its doors in 1999 and has been baking up a storm since then with fresh baked breads and pastries. Belonging to a new generation of fresh & funky food purveyors, Cascadia Bakery is part of Rebar restaurant, located in historic Bastion Square. Wonderful and rustic breads like their Stone Loaf and the light Honey Cornmeal bread emerge fresh from the oven, as do pies and pastries and a decadent Vegan Velvet Fudge Cake. At Bubby Rose’s Bakery—well actually with two locations, both on Cook Street, I guess Bakery street would be more accurate, their cinnamon buns (and challah and croissants) are something you will dream about for months afterwards.

In Cowichan Bay, True Grain Bakery has become a place of pilgrimage for serious bread lovers. Dedicated to the goals of the Slow Food Movement, the bakery has created the 4.92km Loaf that celebrates the sustainability with flour they mill themselves from wheat that is grown just down the road. Handcrafted using natural leavening and cooked on a stone hearth, these are loaves to treasure, but don’t wait too long before tucking into because they are too good to simply idolize! Don’t miss their other splendid offerings including Kamut Pumpkin Seed bread, spelt baguettes, olive studded ciabatta and those chocolate buns… oh my!

In Nanaimo, Carol and Bill Clay opened Bodhi’s Artisan Bakery in 2008. The pair (she, a trained pastry chef and cake decorator, and he, a member of Baking Team Canada) have been wooing the locals with crusty baguettes and delicate croissants ever since. Also in the area, the Columbia Bakery and the Nanaimo Bakery & Confectionary have been favourite haunts of lovers of baked goods and fine pastries for years.

In Qualicum Beach, La Boulange has been baking their naturally leavened and wheat-free breads for restaurants and high-end food markets for some time now, but they recently opened a retail shop on their Bennett Road property for those of us who crave a slice at home. And if you find yourself in downtown Qualicum Beach stop by Elena’s Bakery & Café to check out the owner’s latest chapeau and her delectable treats fresh from the oven. Just down the road make sure you stop in at the Coomb’s Country Market (that funky place with the goats on the roof!) and browse their huge selection of warm & tempting baked goods.

A trip north toward Courtenay will bring you to the Black Creek region and the Alderlane Farmhouse Bakery for some feta & spinach croissants or Danish pastries filled with Oregon grape jelly. You can also pick up the made from scratch goodies at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market open weekly on Wednesday & Saturday mornings. And if yeast, sugar, dairy, egg & additive free breads are your passion, drop by the Cortes Sourdough Bakery near Merville for some wholesome, flavourful loaves.

Out on the west coast, eclectic, quirky and fabulous describe the Common Loaf Bake Shop in Tofino. A cultural and community hub, The Loaf is as famous for its people watching and conversation as it is for its cheese buns.

From Slow Rise Organic Bakery on Gabriola and Morningside Organic Bakery on Salt Spring Island, to the Cardboard House Bakery on Hornby, there are so many fun, funky & fabulous bakeries to be enjoyed and so many loaves of bread and pastries and cookies and cakes to be sampled on your next visit to Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

 “[Breadbaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells...there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.”  —M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating


Where in the World...

Explore Geo-caching throughout Vancouver Island & Gulf Islands.

Combine your childhood memories of hide-and-go-seek with the thrill of that treasure hunt you won at your best friend’s birthday party. Mix in some high tech, fresh air and exercise and you have the makings of a perfect afternoon… otherwise known as geocaching on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

This latest sport for the outdoor enthusiast involves using a GPS (Global Positioning System) device to assist you in finding the exact location of geocaches… hidden treasures that have been left for you to find by fellow enthusiasts. A cache generally consists of a small sturdy container inside which you will find a logbook (for recording your discovery of the cache) and a few inexpensive trinkets. You can take one of the items home with you as your prize and then add your own items to the cache for the next treasure seeker. Some caches are themed, asking you to leave related mementos or stories behind… your best wedding moment, or in the case of the cache at N 48° 29.574 W 123° 29.174, your harrowing tales of squirrels gone bad!

Geocaching is growing in popularity worldwide. There over 100 countries and seven continents involved in this global quest and 859,904 active registered sites currently being sought and recorded according to the website, but Vancouver Island has one of the highest levels of participation anywhere. Once you register on the site—it’s free for the basic membership—you can log on and download the locations (longitude and latitude) of these hidden treasures along with clues, descriptions of the terrain, difficulty ratings and even driving directions to get you close enough to begin your adventure.

There are thousands of caches waiting to be discovered in the Victoria area alone. So, if you are already into this exciting new adventure tourism sport, just remember to pack your GPS unit on your next trip to the Capital Region and add geocaching to your list of fun things to do on Vancouver Island.

Check in with Vancouver Island GPS, our regional association, or the BC Geocaching Association for news & events that might coincide with your visit here. The Second Annual Port Alberni Geo-Cathlon, for instance is set for September 26th and there is an annual Island Hide-&-Go-Cache event that takes place in early spring.

If you are new to the world of geocaching and want to find out what all the excitement is about, a great place to start is Make sure to visit the site of Victoria geocaching afficianados, Chris & Helen, at for local info as well as geocaching goodies like custom designed geocoins, log books, cache stickers, headlamps & fire tacks (for after-dark caching) and even gear for your four-legged dog cacher.

One of the greatest rewards of geocaching on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands is the opportunity to explore some beautifully scenic locations. You will meander along forested trails, ramble through meadows, climb to viewpoints and hike along rocky beaches to places you might otherwise overlook. There are urban caches, country caches and wilderness caches waiting to be discovered. Geocaching is a great way to get some exercise, and have some fun with friends and family… and it takes both mind and muscles, high tech and no tech, to accomplish the task. 

So, set your coordinates for Vancouver Island and the Gulf Island and let your geocaching adventures begin.

Also of interest…


Westcoast Palate

The great thing about this recipe is you can use almost any type of soft fruit that you happen to have on hand… use one or a combination of: peaches, apricots, plums, blueberries, cherries, even mangos.

I happened to have a basket of yellow plums freshly picked from a friend’s fruit laden tree, so it seemed the perfect opportunity to enjoy the sweet goodness of an Island Harvest.

Island Harvest Buckle

  1. 1 1⁄2 cups (375 ml) all purpose flour
  2. 1 tsp. (5 ml) baking powder
  3. 1⁄4 tsp. (1 ml) salt
  4. 1/2 cup (125 ml) butter, at room temp
  5. 1/2 cup (125 ml) soft margarine
  6. 2/3 cup (150 ml) sugar
  7. 2 eggs, room temperature
  8. 1 tsp. (5 ml) vanilla
  9. 3 cups (750 ml) of fruit, pitted & sliced (as necessary) and sprinkled
  10. with 1/4 cup (50 ml) sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

2. Butter a pie plate and set aside.

3. In mixing bowl, cream butter and margarine; beat in sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in vanilla.

4. In a second small mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt and then add to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix the batter well.

5. Scrape batter into the pie plate and spread evenly. Scatter the sugared fruit slices evenly over the top, and press lightly into the batter using your fingertips – there should be enough fruit to cover the top thickly.

6. Bake until the top is golden and the edges pull away from the pan, about 50 minutes (could be more depending on the moisture content of the fruit). Let cool about 30 minutes before serving.


Island Reads

By Audrey Alsterberg
Published by Big Ideas Publishing

Restaurant anecdotes and photographs capture the lively spirit of Rebar and its people. Since 1989, Rebar Modern Food has been Victoria's favourite restaurant and fresh juice bar featuring fresh, healthy and predominantly vegetarian fare. The upbeat atmosphere and vibrant food has led critics to describe Rebar as "inventive", "hip" and "visionary."

This book is meant to be used and enjoyed with recipes ranging from salads, pastas, entrées, great brunch ideas, soups, sandwiches, side dishes and sweets to fresh juices. Each page offers handy tips, menu ideas, seasonal substitutions and suggestions for transforming dishes into low-fat or vegan alternatives. Fuel your body and soul with a Botanical Burger with Lime-Tarragon Mayonnaise. Start the day right with the famous Huevos Rancheros and finish with rich Vegan Fudge Brownies.

Reflections at Sandhill Creek
Meditations on the Wild West Coast
By Adrian Dorst
Published by Harbour Publishing

The West Coast evokes visions of polished driftwood and raging waves, tranquil sand dunes and crimson sunsets—a savage beauty that draws visitors from around the world. Some lucky visitors, like renowned photographer Adrian Dorst, find a reason to stay. In Reflections at Sandhill Creek, Dorst reflects upon his chosen home of thirty-five years, capturing quintessential West Coast icons in a stunning visual journey to this astonishing place—and beyond.

Reflections at Sandhill Creek will inspire those who have experienced the West Coast to take home its essence for further contemplation, and allow those who have not yet had the chance to make the journey from wherever they are.

Planet Salt Spring
By Arthur Black
Audio book on CD - Published by Harbour Publishing


Live! From Planet Salt Spring . . . it's Arthur Black, the voice you've longed to hear once more! In this first-time audio book format Black shares tales from that sphere on the outer limits he calls his home, Salt Spring Island, BC. In this humorous collection of stories from across the water where the hitchhikers are a cut above average, Black offers insight into the proper etiquette of the Gulf Island hug and offers tips for aspiring bank robbers on islands that have extremely limited getaway options. Black campaigns for a vote recount when the deserving and beloved local, Palu Rainbowsong, is shut out of Canada's Ultimate Hippie Contest, and offers an elegy to Fritz, the local movie theatre’s resident cat. From his preference for canoes over kayaks for both salvage space and lovemaking, to the Toys for Tots Motorcycle Rally where he rides on his motor scooter wearing sandals with socks, Black's down-to-earth and comical reflections are an escape into island life . . . or an alien encounter from Planet Salt Spring.

up your boots and sample more than fifty trails on Canada's beautiful west coast. From the rugged windswept shores of Cape Scott Provincial Park to the urban trails of Victoria's Galloping Goose and the ancient and silent forests of the Island's interior, Hiking Vancouver Island has memorable routes to please hikers of every stripe. Outdoor explorers, writers, and sisters Shannon and Lissa Cowan describe more than fifty trails that vary in length, from easy one-hour outings ideal for children and beginning hikers to more challenging backpacking treks in the backcountry.

Inside you'll find: up-to-date trail information; clear directions from major access points; difficulty ratings for each hike; detailed trail maps; tips on navigation, equipment, first aid, and hiking with children.

Whether you are a day-tripper or long-distance hiker, old hand or novice, you'll find trails suited to every ability and interest throughout Vancouver Island.”

Direct To...

Vancouver Island, Victoria and the Gulf Islands