The Oxford Arena was dark and quiet this week, a far cry from the scene expected in two weeks time when the Cumberland County Exhibition gets under way.
This year's exhibition will take place from Sept. 1-5, and organizers are hoping for another year of increased numbers at the long-running event.
"Numbers were up last year from the year before, as far as people coming through the gate, which gives us a little better budget for this year, so we can put a little more into entertainment and other things," explained Leonard Allen, president of the exhibition's board of directors. "Hopefully, it will affect our numbers and bring them up a little more over last year's, and we'll continue to grow."
Entries and sponsorships have been flowing in steadily, according to summer student Megan Fahey, who has been hired to run the exhibition office this year, said preparations for the event are moving right on schedule.
She was working this week on mailing thank you packages to the sponsors, who she said are providing strong support.
"We've had a really good response this year," she said. "I'm not sure of the exact number, but I know it's up. People are very receptive to it. A lot of people sponsor every year and like to keep doing it, and we've had some new sponsors as well."
As for the jam-packed schedule, events are planned from 8 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 31 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5.
One of the highlights of this year's schedule will be the team penning show on Saturday night.
A western equestrian sport that evolved from common ranch work, team penning is a fast-paced event that gives a team of three riders on horseback 60 to 90 seconds to separate three specifically identified cattle from a herd and put them into a pen at the opposite end of the arena.
The team penning event will feature horses and riders from all over the Maritimes.
"We had a demonstration of it a couple years ago, and it drew a really big crowd and people seemed to like it," said Allen. "It's fast-paced action and quite exciting to watch, so we thought we'd have an actual team penning event and see how it goes. It filled the arena last time, and it was just a demo."
A busy week of entertainment is in store for exhibition attendants, both inside the arena and on the second stage in the industrial building, which will have a new roof in place. Performers will range from fiddler Ivan Hicks and friends, to local and country favourites, to rock band 460 Kustom.
"It's a different twist for us, because most of the music we have is country and local people singing, but this year we brought a rock band in from Truro," said Fahey. "I think we want to meet every age group, having something for the kids and youth, adults and seniors as well, events to try and keep everyone interested and everyone here."
Other features will include the Cumberland Cuties contest, a pet parade, a petting zoo for children, and countless livestock shows every day. The annual street parade will take place on Saturday, Sept. 5, with the theme being "Flower Power, Going Green."