Western Fair Association was founded in 1867 through the amalgamation of the East Middlesex Agricultural Society and the London District Horticultural and Agricultural Society. The first official meeting of the Western Fair Association was held the following year, which was also the inaugural year for the annual Western Fair.
Western Fair was granted a Provincial Charter and incorporated as an Agricultural Society on April 23, 1867. This was under the Ontario Agricultural Societies Act that is still the basis for the structure and mission of the Association today.
By the Act of Incorporation, the Association is a company separate from the municipality in which it is located, and pursuant to section 30 of the Agricultural and Horticultural Organization Act, the land occupied by the Association is exempt from taxes other than those for local improvements, provided all proceeds from the use of the land are retained solely for the Association’s use and purpose.
With that benefit comes significant responsibilities, some of which are dictated by the legislation, others, which are self-imposed by the Association.
The relationship between Western Fair Association and the City of London is a unique one. The Association has continuously created a financial stimulus to the economy of the region that brings significant financial benefit to the merchants, businesses and citizens of London.
Prior to 1966 Western Fair Association held title to the primary lands it occupied. IN the 1966 WFA/City agreement, Western Fair agreed to turn title of the lands over to the City in exchange for a long term, unencumbered lease of the property that gave the Association exclusive use of the lands. A founding principle of the 1966 lease agreement was that both parties would retain an individual half-interest in the property for the life of the lease.
In 2007, the current land-lease agreement, with the City of London, was extended to 2019 with provisions for two further 10-year renewal terms. This brought an immediate increase in the rent to $250,000 that year with annual increases of 50k until 2014 when the annual rent would be $566,000. Each year thereafter the rent was to increase annually in the amount of the C.P.I. until 2019. This is in addition to the estimated $3.5 million the City receives from Western Fair’s slot operations at no cost to the City or its taxpayers.
The current land lease allows for the exclusive use of the lands by Western Fair and acknowledges that such lands and buildings, regardless of whether they are legally registered in the name of the City or the Association, are considered to be held in trust for the joint benefit of the City, and of the Association. For many decades property purchases and building enhancements have been funded entirely by Western Fair.
Western Fair is responsible for paying the insurance on all of the facilities, maintaining all grounds, funding all equipment purchases and building improvements, paying for all utilities and funding any new facility construction and/or any land acquisitions.
An independent economic impact study by Deloitte & Touche determined that Western Fair Association has a total economic impact in the City of London of $114.2 million.
In June of 2011 the Western Fair Association re-branded itself becoming the Western Fair District. This rebranding exercise was an important milestone in the organization’s history and was seen as necessary by the Board and management of the day, in order to build a strong future for the organization.
Brand recognition existed with the Western Fair, the Association’s signature event, but didn’t encompass all that the entertainment destination offers today. The organization didn’t want to lose that, in fact they choose to continue to honour their heritage by maintaining the name Western Fair and selected District as the unifying word/theme to reflect all that the organization is today and hopes to be in the future.