Earlybirds braved wind and a little rain to take in the opening hours of the Western Fair

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Fair weather or foul, Western Fair faithful came.

They braved chilly wind, grey skies and the odd raindrop to get a taste of the September staple Friday afternoon – in the first hour of the fair’s 10-day run.

They came for the sprawling midway, to see the more than 800 animals on display, for the food, the vendors.

They came to take in the sights and sounds of the grand-daddy of Southwestern Ontario’s fall fairs, still going strong after 142 years.

For 9-year-old school friends Luc Smale and Sam Espiritu, it’s all about the rides.

“The Gravitron,” Espiritu said, rushing small talk to get a head start on the midway.

For Betty and Lyle Britschgi, a time-tested fall fair tradition – the craft competition – is their favourite part.

Her crocheted creations took home first prize in three categories.

Her husband took home some doughnuts from the long line of food stalls.

For the Miller family, three generations of fair-goers, it’s about reliving nostalgia and making new memories.

“We’ve been coming since we were little kids. I remember jumping the fence when I was a kid to get in,” admitted Ben Miller, at the fair with his wife Heather, adult son Chad and three-year-old grandson Takayuki.

“I liked the rides the most as a kid. I think he will too,” said Chad, who grew up going to the fair and is now sharing the experience with his son.

And what an experience it is.

There are concerts, a demolition derby, freestyle motocross, a video game competition – and the performance that makes the biggest splash – the high dive act.

Five daring divers are hitting the pool for all 10 days of the fair. The water is cold, the wind whipping by the dive tower is cooler, but it’s a passion, said show producer Yves Milord.

“I wouldn’t trade it for anything else,” said the former phys-ed teacher who now tours with his dive team full time.

“It’s fun, it’s not a nine to five job. Every day is a different day. It’s always a new adventure.”

The troupe wows the crowds with flips, springboard dives and synchronized plunges, but it’s the final 25 meter dive into just three meters of water, that puts audiences on the edge of their seats.

They’re not the only ones, said diver Chris Dalman.

“The moment you’re not nervous or have a little bit of fear is the moment that things go wrong,” he said.

“You’re hitting the water at roughly 90 km/h and you have a short time to stop.”

Diving has been a family affair for the 33-year-old who hails from Orlando, Fla. His dad was a show diver too.

From the high-dive perch, Dalman said taking the plunge feels like a scene from an action movie.

“You know when there’s a crazy car chase and there’s explosions and then there’s a slow motion part? It’s kind of like that,” he said.

“Your mind is racing, you’re up there and then all of a sudden you jump and it’s slow motion for a second. … It’s an exciting feeling.”



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What: Western Fair 2017

Where: Western Fair District, 316 Rectory St.

When: Until Sept. 17

Tickets: Adults $15, seniors $10, children 5-10 $5. ($5 before 5 p.m.: Monday to Thursday, bring the gang between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and everyone is admitted for $5 each. Available only at the gate.)

Online: westernfairdistrict.com

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