A Century of Champions with The Royal 100 Anniversary Gala

The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair (“The Royal”) was established in November 1922 to provide a showcase for Canada’s very best in agriculture and equestrian sport. Now the world’s largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show, the annual 10-day event takes place every November at Toronto’s Exhibition Place and celebrates the best in agriculture, local food, and equestrian competitions from across the country.

As a Canadian Registered Charity, The Royal contributes to the rich Canadian tapestry across the worlds of education, arts & culture, culinary excellence, local food & entrepreneurship, environmental stewardship, elite and youth sports, agricultural innovation, and more.

After a two-year hiatus, The Royal returned to Toronto’s Exhibition place from November 4 – 13 for a milestone year: its centennial! Celebrating A Century of Champions, Hala Inc. collaborated with The Royal to produce The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair’s 100th Anniversary Gala (“The Gala”). This was The Royal’s first fundraising gala ever, and it paid tribute to The Royal’s distinguished history and celebrated its commitment to remain Canada’s leader in showcasing Canadian agriculture, local food, and equine excellence.

Hala Inc. won a competitive bid to oversee all event coordination and management, including technical production, entertainment, décor, catering, volunteer and committee management, venue management, logistics, and guiding strategic fundraising.

Held on Wednesday, November 2, 2022, at the historic Heritage Court at Exhibition Place, The Gala welcomed 1,000 Royal patrons, political and philanthropic community leaders, and Loyal Royals for a night to remember filled with many special moments.

Guests walked the golden crown carpet, were welcomed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and had a photo opportunity with 2022 Royal Ambassador Winston, a 26-year-old Perderon horse.

Guests made their way into Heritage Court where they entered the beautifully decorated cocktail reception under a ceiling swagged with Edison bulb string lights to create old fashioned ambiance. The reception included:
• Communal lounges with black sofas accented with gold and black metal cocktail and coffee tables, soft florals and votives;
• Two branded photo opportunities representing both the Agricultural and Equestrian sides of The Royal with a real tractor and a 100th-anniversary show jump respectively;
• Performance by JUNO Award-winning artist Sammy Jackson;
• A Century of Champions Exhibit showcasing memorabilia from the last hundred years;
• Royal Paddock with sale of anniversary merchandise; and
• An artist gallery showcasing special curated artwork.

Guests enjoyed an open bar, along with the Dairy Distillery specialty cocktail bar featuring Vodkow Moscow Mule and a Champagne Bar. Gourmet passed canapés, representing Canada’s rich bounty from coast to coast, including lobster Club, Fritter Mantane, Cured Halibut, Pork Belly Cruller, Beretta Bison Tartare, Ratatouille Gougère and Saskatchewan Lental Falafel.

Floor-to-ceiling black and gold draping with up-lighting separated the cocktail reception from the dining room in the 50,000-square-foot foot Heritage Court. The guest transition from the cocktail reception to the dining room paid tribute to the Royal’s rich history. Carrying on a century-old tradition in their scarlet tunics and feather bonnets, the award-winning St. Andrew’s College Pipes and Drums led guests into the dinner reception.

The main façade in Heritage Court was formally the exterior entrance to the Coca-Cola Coliseum. The brick façade featuring swag motifs and Doric columns provided a beautiful canvas for the immersive 3D projection mapping with visual content that told the rich and distinguished history of The Royal. The tables were draped with rich black and gold satin linens, and white florals, including hydrangeas and roses in gold vases, filled the centre of each table.

Emceeded by treasured Canadian television personality Rick Mercer, guests enjoyed a unique and unforgettable Canadian culinary experience curated and prepared by acclaimed Chef Michael Bonacini, Chair of the Culinary &Hospitality Committee of The Royal.

Guests were served a multi-course menu with wine pairing that celebrated Canada’s vast natural bounty while integrating several more unexpected ingredients. Thoughtfully incorporating diverse tastes and textures from coast to coast, this farm-to-fork experience showcased delicious flavours, artfully presented and with a focus on sustainability and zero waste. Dishes were presented by a team of passionate young cooks and culinary students, offering guests the opportunity to connect and engage with the stories behind each plate:
First course: Maple Smoked Sustainable Blue Salmon with Celeriac and Roasted Apple Velouté; Nova Scotia dulse, sunchoke, and leek with Peller Family Reserve 2020 Riesling
Second course: Alberta Beef Tenderloin, Cheek and Shank with Niagara Merlot Jus; Roasted mushroom, Bradfordonion, and Prairie grains with Peller Family Reserve 2021 Cabernet Merlot
Third course: Wild Ginger and Warner’s Farm Plum Pouding Chomeur; Labneh, sea buckthorn, pickled cranberry, andTamarack Farms squash

During the dinner, Rick Mercer hosted an up close & personal fireside chat with Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo; encouraged guests to purchase 50/50 draw tickets to support youth and education in agriculture; and hosted a live auction to win a trip of a lifetime to St. Lucia.

Following the dinner, the evening continued inside the Coca-Cola Coliseum where dinner guests joined another 500+ guests for The Royal Showcase presented by SiriusXM Canada.

Special SFX lighting, gobos, and moving lights created a spectacular ambiance in the Coliseum for the show. They used a beautiful, reflective gold Austrian drape as the backdrop to the massive stage that was built into the stands and made for a gorgeous focal point for the show.

Hosted by Rick Mercer, the Opening Ceremony Showcase delivered an unprecedented array of special performances and collaborations never seen before, including:
• Fun pre-show performance by the SuperDogs that entertained guests as they took their seats;
• Canadian national anthem performed by First Nations singer/songwriter Mary Bryton Nahwegahbow-Holder with the Toronto Police Mounted Unit;
• Canadian rock legends Blue Rodeo performing with the Horses @Liberty;
• Internationally renowned supergroup, The Tenors performed with the RCMP Musical Ride;
• Country star SACHA’s magical performance with the St. Andrew’s College Pipes and Drums;
• Powerful spoken word performance by Ontario’s first Poet Laureate, Randell Adjei, featuring two violinists and an internationally award-winning opera singer
• Thrilling Rodeo performance;
• Special salute to the generations of farmers and their lifelong commitment to be “Best in Class” at The Royal;
• Exciting show jumping demonstration featuring the incredible Millars – Olympian Ian Millar, Amy Millar and Jonathon Millar.

Following the show, gala guests returned to Heritage Court for the after-party to enjoy a live DJ and continue the celebrations.

The memorable evening paid tribute to 100 incredible years since the inception of The Royal and celebrated A Century of Champions while raising $1.6 million. Volunteers and staff played a key role in the event’s success. Volunteer duties included:
• Set up including table set up with programs, tent cards, table numbers, gifts, position signage, etc.
• Guest registration and greeters
• Auction spotting
• Distributed wristbands to guests during dinner (to gain entry to the coliseum, complimentary drinks and re-entry to the after-party)
• Tear down

The Royal staff and Gala committee were responsible for marketing & communications, sales and sponsorship, and coordinating The Century of Champions Exhibit, The Royal Paddock, artist gallery and worked closely with The Royal’s Director of Operations & Director of Broadcast on some of the technical aspects of the show to piggyback on equipment and labour being used for The Royal Horse Show.

Reach out to Hala to learn more