It was an evening of celebration last night in Brandon for the Provincial Exhibition as it officially opened the doors of its new home to the public!
It was the long-awaited Grand Opening celebration, where more than 200 people visited the restored century-old Display Building No. II, fondly known as the Dome Building, that stands proudly on the Exhibition grounds.
1913 was a year of sudden celebration and construction for the City of Brandon as it prepared for the Dominion Exhibition, a national agricultural fair initiated by the Department of Agriculture. Brandon was awarded the event in January of 1913 for that summer’s Dominion Fair to be held 7 months later in July!
Display Building Number II was constructed to showcase agricultural and manufacturing innovations from across the nation. The Dominion Fair was held every year from 1879 to 1913 at various locations across Canada, each year’s location chosen by the Federal Government.
An astounding 200,000 people attended the 10-day fair in Brandon in July of 1913, with trailers attached to street cars to help move the crowds of people through the city streets to and from the fairgrounds. Hotels were filled to maximum capacity and the local roller rink boarded the overflow of visitors.
Sadly, 1913 would prove to be the last year that the Dominion Fair was ever held in Canada due to the outbreak of World War I. It was never to be revived after that.
Deemed by the Heritage Canada Foundation back in 2009 as one of the ‘most endangered structures in the country’ and described as a “rare surviving example of the late 19th and early 20th century type of exhibition halls” built for agricultural fairs.’ The Dome Building is the only surviving building in Canada constructed for this series of Fairs from long ago.
Through the years, the question remained for stakeholders of what to do with this historical building. It was in 2011 when the Restoring the Glory Campaign began to restore it back to its glory days of over 100 years ago.
It’s been a labour of love for all those involved. Stan Cochrane is Chair of the Restoring the Glory Campaign. He said this project has been a success because of the shared passion. “Everyone that has been involved has done so because they are passionate about seeing this building restored to its former glory.”
General Manager for the Provincial Exhibition says it’s been a wonderful thing to have their offices come back to this location. “The Provincial Exhibition is an agriculture society. We put on fairs and our origins were agriculture right from the get-go! That’s what the fairs were.”
“We’ve been here as long as the City of Brandon, and a year longer than the Chamber of Commerce. So, as Brandon became a community, a group of people got together and said, ‘we should have a fair and showcase our agricultural products, showcase our animals, maybe throw some entertainment pieces in, and have fun in our community’. “
“And, we’ve been doing that here since 1882, and in this building since 1913. So, the vision of the people at the time was to bring the community together, to celebrate what they do, and that’s still our vision today.”
Kristjansson says that as the times have certainly changed, the basis for agriculture has not changed that much.
“Agriculture hasn’t changed in some ways,” he explains, “because they still plant seeds in the ground and grow crops. Cows still have calves and we still raise pigs. You know, those things are consistent for over a hundred years, but there are so many changes and now this building is a reflection of that.“
“It’s a Heritage Site, with the exterior restored to Heritage guidelines. The interior has high-insulation value, geo-thermal heat and high speed internet; a lot of things that would never have been anticipated by the group that built this building in 1913, but I think they would be proud of us for what we’ve done.”
“We feel the pride in our organization,” says Kristjannson. “I’m one of the select few who get to come to work in this building every morning. This building has been our logo in one way, shape or form, for many, many years. It’s been our signature and now it’s our home again.”
Display Building No. II will be open to the public on Sunday, September 16th for Manitoba’s Open Farm Day hosting a variety of activities, where the public is encouraged to come, see the building and meet representatives from the Provincial Ex and 4-H Manitoba from 10am-3pm.