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The longest standing event in Colchester County is turning 70 this year.
To mark the milestone, organizers of this year’s Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition say they’ve launched an exciting rebranding campaign for the week-long event, which runs from August 22 to 27.

The theme of this year’s exhibition is centred on celebration. The goal is to elevate the Ex to become the ultimate family event, which many believe it can be.

To achieve that, the plan is to work with new entertainment, vendors and activities with a big emphasis on agriculture and celebrating local. A new logo has also been unveiled.

“We’ve had the opportunity to meet with many of the volunteers that work tirelessly to pull together their individual events and competitions and what we’re getting is a sense that the event needed a breath of fresh air. The best way to do that is by rebranding the exhibition with a new look and feel,” said Amanda Langille of Langille & Colburne, the local event management and consulting firm contracted to put the 2016 edition of the exhibition together. “What that really means is a new promise of what people can and should expect. We’re focused on providing the public with a clean, wholesome event.”

Langille & Colburne are working in collaboration with a dedicated planning committee to ensure the once well respected and well attended provincial exhibition returns to that level.

Craig Johnson is the marketing chairperson for this year’s Ex. He says a lot had to be considered before committing to a rebranding campaign. For inspiration, they looked at how farmers’ markets continue to grow and thrive in different communities.

“We had to stop and realize that this event is 70 years old and it’s the Provincial Exhibition,” he said. “We needed to take ownership of that. We also know people are looking to connect with farmers and understand where their food comes from. They’re looking to understand the research and innovation around food production but a farmers’ market is also a cultural event with entertainment, arts and crafts. It’s a social thing. It’s a food thing. So we needed to take that concept of being close to the ground like farmers’ markets but magnify it so that we could celebrate the fact this is the 70th anniversary.”

Last year, approximately 15,000 people went to the Ex. That’s a far cry from the 40,000 people the event would bring in during its hay day. With all the changes and the fact it’s the 70th anniversary, Langille expects numbers to shoot up.

“We’re really stepping up to promote the agricultural aspect because that’s where the roots of this event lie,” she said. “We have all the favourite events people love plus the Midway but there will be a noticeable difference with the industrial building. That’s where the ‘Celebrate Local’ expo will take place. It’s a handmade, home grown expo that really shows off what this area has to offer.”

In recent years, there’s been little build-up to the Ex. That’s an area organizers have already started to change. Information is readily available thanks to a large social media presence which will allow people to better plan their trip to the Ex.

Six floats were entered in the Canada Day Parade in Bible Hill, which also saw the first appearance of the NSPE Street Team. In their green t-shirts created specifically for the Ex, the street team also turned up at The Beach Boys concert at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre.

This group will be randomly turning up at various events throughout the county, creating a buzz for the Ex.

“We’ve looked at changing some of the little things as well which will actually have a big impact,” said Johnson. “The creation of a family pass for $20 will make the Ex truly accessible. It’s going to be broadly appealing. It will have its agricultural components, events like the demolition derby and really great music. We’re thrilled that truck pulls will be returning this year as well. Then there’s the educational component, which isn’t always promoted but has existed since the beginning. We’re trying to balance what made the Ex great with what a 21st century agricultural fair looks like.”

With a revamped sponsorship package, it didn’t take long for Masstown Market to jump onside as a presenting sponsor. Langille says the response from Masstown Market as well as other local businesses has been nothing but supportive.

For Masstown Market, it was a natural fit.

“The exhibition is a fun family oriented week that brings people in from near and far. It has that agricultural basis and as do we,” said owner Laurie Jennings. “The exhibition is going to feature a lot more when it comes to that local flavour which is what we’ve always tried to do. It’s a chance for people to learn more about their community and where their food comes from while having fun with the kids. It’s pushing to have the same flavour and feel that I want people to experience when they visit us.

Johnson says that kind of commitment sends a new message.

“The truth is, there’s been a lot of cynicism around the exhibition and the exhibition commission over the last decade,” he said. “The idea that people have decided to come together and give this event a refreshing shot in the arm is exciting to people. They’ve been waiting for this. The enthusiasm around this event and the fact people are really making an effort to bring this event to where it should be is exciting for people.”
Instead of starting on a Tuesday, the exhibition will start on the Monday, which has traditionally been known as 4-H Day. Langille says 4-H Day is the best way to kick off the event.

“It only makes sense that we incorporate 4-H day,” she said. “It’s an agricultural based event that’s evolved into so much more. We couldn’t think of a better way to kick off the exhibition than with 4-H Day. This is a free day for the public so they are welcome to come and see what the organization is all about.”

She adds the Midway won’t be operational on that day but food vendors will be set up and ready to go.

Anyone looking for more information can visit www.nspe.ca or find NSPE on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.