Brussels Agricultural Society hopes to host Fall Fair this year
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
While there are still many details to be determined (and many factors out of members’ hands), the Brussels Agricultural Society is hoping to move forward with the Brussels Fall Fair this September.
The organization held its annual general meeting on Sunday, virtually via Zoom, where planning for the annual event began. A number of decisions still need to be made and a subcommittee has been struck to offer the society options in the event that the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre is unavailable due to its extensive renovation and expansion project or further options are necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the meeting began, the Brussels Fall Fair was scheduled for Sept. 13-14 with the theme of “Twist and Sprout”. However, there was a suggestion to move the fair to Sept. 20-21 to adhere to the society’s own scheduling traditions, holding the fair on the third Tuesday and Wednesday of September. The 2022 Elementary School Fair in Belgrave, however, is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 21, and the fairs have always been careful not to clash with one another over the years to ensure local students are able to participate in both if they so choose.
Treasurer John Lowe suggested, however, perhaps shifting the fair’s parade to the Sunday prior to the fair, citing the success of the parades of the past two years, which were well attended, even without the traditional fair being held.
Several other society members voiced their support for Lowe’s suggestion, with Matt Cardiff saying that a long-term move to a weekend fair is something he wants to do, but was unsure if 2022 was the year to begin that process.
Monique Baan, however, said that the society would have to be careful not to clash with other fairs in the region, while President Zoellyn Onn said the weekend scheduling could clash with the local 4-H clubs that use the fair for their achievement day.
Another member also pointed out that having the fair on a weekend would complicate the participation of students from North Woods Elementary School, though it is already complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Onn said that perhaps a Sunday/Monday fair could work, as an option, but that changing the days of the fair would be more of a long-term conversation.
Furthermore, Onn said there are a number of discussions to be had surrounding what the fair will look like this September as a result of a number of factors, foremost the state of the renovation and expansion project at the Brussels, Morris and Grey Community Centre, the traditional home of the fair, and the state of the COVID-19 pandemic at the time of the fair.
She said that, if the community centre is not available (she would endeavour to provide an update from Huron East Council soon), the society could host a multi-site fair, perhaps at another large community facility such as the Four Winds Barn, or under a large rented tent.
Cardiff suggested a subcommittee to brainstorm several options in the event the community centre is not available for the fair and Jeff Cardiff, Reg Vinnicombe, Mary Ann Thompson and Lori Vader all volunteered, in addition to Matt Cardiff. The subcommittee will present a handful of options to the membership at a future meeting.
At the meeting, members also decided that the 2022 Brussels Fall Fair, should it go ahead in its traditional form, will be referred to as the 159th Brussels Fall Fair. (The last official Brussels Fall Fair was held in 2019 and was the 158th fair.)
There was some discussion on the issue, with members making points on both sides. In the end, members agreed that, while events, such as meals and parades, had been held in 2020 and 2021, they were society events and did not constitute a full fall fair in the traditional sense.
The plan now, Onn said, is to mark the society’s 160th fair in 2023.
No final decision has yet been made on a date for the 2022 Brussels Fall Fair, but venue and further information will be taken into account in the coming months before things are finalized.
At its annual general meeting, the society elected its next slate of officers.
Onn was chosen to remain the president for another year after serving for the past two years, during which time the society has been unable to host a fair. She was acclaimed to the position.
Reg Vinnicombe was acclaimed to the position of first vice-president, meaning he will serve as the president for 2023-2024, while Sean Mitchell was acclaimed to the position of second vice-president. He will move up to first vice-president in 2023-2024 and serve as president in 2025-2026.
Pam McLellan’s term as homecraft president isn’t up until next year, but Linda Garland was acclaimed to the position of first vice-homecraft president, meaning that she will take over the homecraft presidency for 2023-2024.
Secretary Crystal McCallum also presented society members with an updated constitution for the organization based on advice from the Ontario Nonprofit Network.
Janelle Cardiff, Farm and Food Care Ontario second vice-chair and the Egg Farmers of Ontario representative to Farm and Food Care Ontario was the guest speaker for the meeting. She spoke on the work of the organization, both before the COVID-19 pandemic and during, and how the Brussels Agricultural Society could benefit from being a member.
The organization has a 30-year history, she told members, and has since spawned sister organizations in both Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island.
Cardiff said it works to connect farmers and consumers and to clarify the world of farming for the high percentage of people who do not have a personal connection to farming in this day and age. One of the key aspects of the organization’s outreach work had been farm tours. They were put on hold when the pandemic struck, she said, but have continued in the form of catalogued video tours or live events broadcast over the internet.
Onn said she would inquire about the community centre project at a future meeting of Huron East Council to provide an update to the society at a future meeting.
The next meeting for the society is scheduled for Feb. 16.
The 2023 Brussels Fall Fair has also already been scheduled with a date set for Sept. 19-20, 2023. The theme for the fair is “Bank Barns and Spinning Yarns”.
A theme for the 2024 Brussels Fall Fair will also be chosen at a meeting sometime this year.