Barbara A. Martindale- For What It's Worth
With the Caledonia Fair being held this weekend, the Caledonia Agricultural Society's Exhibition Hall comes to mind while in the midst of a huge campaign to restructure the building for large events.
Since 2004, no longer needed as an arena, there are new purposes in mind for the hall, some already being utilized.
Once known as the Drill Hall when it was moved from the Edinburgh Square area in 1878 to the existing Fairgrounds, the hall has gone through many changes while remaining in the same location.
The hall's history, or as it is referred today as the old arena, it was 1922 when the Drill Hall was presented to the Caledonia Agricultural Society by the Department of Militia. The following year it was turned over to the Caledonia Arena Co. for $300’s worth of stock in the arena.
A new arena was built that year, using much of the lumber from the old Drill Hall. The land on which the arena stood was deeded to the Caledonia Arena Co. with the Caledonia Agricultural Society reserving the use of the arena as an exhibition hall for the Fair.
The Caledonia Arena Co. found it was in financial trouble in 1946. Following lengthy discussion with the Caledonia Agricultural Society, the Society agreed to consider the purchase of the arena from the mortgage holder. Finally, in April of 1949, the deal was completed.
Harry Leith held the mortgage for the Caledonia Arena Co. It was through him that the Exhibition Hall was purchased.
But it wasn't just the $2,800 the Society paid for the building; there were other expenses, too, such as $1,500 for installation of lavatory, $1,000 for painting the building, $800 for building the road fence, $500 for flood lighting and repairs to the arena of $600.
Then in the 1960s, the main entrance to the exhibition hall was modernized; the grandstand was built in 1962 with a capacity of 1,260 along the riverbank. A new entrance was added in 1966 in time for the special events of the Centennial year.
In 1970, the town council proposed a new arena, which would be owned by the Society and leased to the Caledonia Community Service Board for ten months of each year. The Society agreed and donated $10,000 to the project. In order to obtain a debenture, the Society needed to deed the land (approximately 120 feet by 200 feet) over to the town. The Society did this and a 99-year lease was signed. New additions to arena were extensive. It served the community well for many years both as an arena for hockey, broomball, figure skating club, ringette, etc. and as an exhibition hall during the days of the Fair.
Another occurrence happened in the life of the Exhibition Hall in 2004. Since then, it has been totally in the hands of the Caledonia Agricultural Society along with many expenses. That was when the new Haldimand County Caledonia Centre became the new home for hockey, ringette and figure
skating club activities.
A fundraising campaign, titled ‘Raise the Roof,’ funded a badly-needed new roof, which was installed last year. Blueprint plans reveal a series of steps to carry out and goals to be accomplished for the interior in order to create a building for large events and facilitate large gatherings.
The Caledonia Rotary Club will be holding its second gala in the "old arena" on October 18 to assist with the Caledonia Agricultural Society's goal. This year's theme, "Chicago," will see the hall encased with beautiful decorations, white linens and the theme profiled.
As for the 2014 Caledonia Fair this weekend, the unifying theme "Celebrate the Family Farm" will thrust the Exhibition Hall to the attention of fairgoers. Hi Ho! We'll see you at the Fair.