Annie Sparling named Blyth Citizen of the Year
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
This year’s Citizen of the Year Award winner for Blyth and its surrounding communities is Annie Sparling.
Sparling received multiple nominations for this year’s award, with nominators citing her dedication to the village and work with the Blyth Community Betterment Group.
“Annie’s heart and soul is for the Village of Blyth, as evidenced by the many projects she has initiated over the past years,” one nomination read. “She goes in the direction of her dreams for the village and works diligently to turn her visions into realities by spearheading activities and events to celebrate our village. She formed the Blyth Community Betterment Group and chairs this small committee.”
In addition to Sparling’s work with the Blyth BIA, followed by the Blyth Community Betterment Group, she was also the driving force behind the Blyth Hometown Holiday Weekend, which returned a Santa Claus parade to Blyth along with several other holiday-themed events over the course of the weekend.
“The parade had not occurred for many years and the community was excited that the parade had been revived,” one nomination read. “The day brought people from far and wide and all were thrilled to watch the numerous floats, bands and other entries.”
Sparling was also instrumental in organizing a truck draw, which was the main fundraiser behind the revival of the Rutabaga Festival, another successful event in the village carried out by Sparling and the Blyth Community Betterment Group and the group’s band of volunteers.
“Annie reinstituted the Rutabaga Festival to celebrate the village and acknowledge Blyth as the rutabaga capital of the world. As part of the launch, she organized general meetings in February of 2019 to receive community input. After [not having the event for] 25 years, plans came together for a massive celebration, the Rutabaga Festival of 2019, held in October,” one nomination read.
Sparling was also the driving force behind the Blyth Community Betterment Group taking over the Blyth Outdoor Market this year from the Blyth Business Improvement Area (BIA).
The nomination read that Sparling is also a member of a committee that works to groom and maintain the Goderich-to-Guelph Rail Trail (G2G) through Blyth, ensuring it is accessible and safe for visiting and local cyclists.
“Annie volunteers in many other aspects of the community, sharing her singing talent at different community events,” one nomination read. “Students at the Huron Christian School benefitted from her musical talents when she acted as the assistant director/director for their school musical. In the past, she has been part of church worship teams, a Sunday school teacher and instructor at Vacation Bible School. A keen supporter of youth in the community, she has co-ordinated the Huron FC soccer club and was the Battle Book coach at the Huron Christian School.”
One nomination read that Sparling is a big supporter of community groups working together, which is why she supported the Friends of the Village group for its food drive in April, helping to cover shortages at local food banks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Annie is a ray of sunshine and is always ready and willing to lend a hand. She derives great pleasure from serving others and her dedication to our village benefits all residents,” one nomination read. “As she pursues various projects, she has the amazing ability to bring the community closer together and invites all to reap the benefits.”
When contacted by The Citizen, Sparling said she was “very, very honoured” to be named this year’s award winner. However, Sparling said she really does view herself as a member of a team and she credits her fantastic team for the successes of the Community Betterment Group, the Hometown Holiday Weekend and the Rutabaga Festival.
The Citizen of the Year Award winners are nominated by members of the community over the course of the year. After the nomination period comes to an end, those names are then considered by the past five winners of the award, who then choose the winner. North Huron Publishing has proudly presented the award every year since it was founded in 1985, 35 years ago.
Past winners of the award in the Blyth area are: Evalena Webster, 1985; Frank and Cenetta Bainton, 1986; Winona McDougall, 1987; Margaret Whyte, 1989; Simon Hallahan, 1990; Dr. Richard Street, 1991; Bill and Maxine Seers, 1992; Margaret Caldwell, 1993; Helen Gowing, 1994; Don Scrimgeour, 1995; John Stewart, 1996; Janet Amos, 1997; Betty Battye, 1998; Robb Finch, Dave Cook, Brent Scrimgeour and Doug Walker, 1999; Murray Siertsema, 2000; Charlie Shaw, 2001; Lavern Clark, 2002; Bev Blair and Thelma Johnston, 2003; Steven Sparling, 2004; Don “Barney” Stewart, 2005; Lois van Vliet, 2006; Janice Henry, 2007; Joe Hallahan, 2008; Brock and Janis Vodden, 2009; Jean Nethery, 2010; Kay Hesselwood, 2011; Steve Howson, 2012; Barbara Bosman, 2013; Marian Hallahan, 2014; Nellie Mason, 2015; Ernie Phillips, 2016; Ric McBurney, 2017, Carl Nesbitt, 2018 and Jane Smyth in 2019.