Zoey Onn steps into Brussels Agricultural Society's president role
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
At the Brussels Agricultural Society’s annual general meeting earlier this year, Zoellyn Onn took on the role of president for the next two years after only joining the society less than two years earlier.
Though Onn doesn’t have a background in agriculture, she feels she can contribute to the society and its annual Brussels Fall Fair with the help and expertise of veteran society members.
Born and raised in Huron County, Onn moved to Toronto and spent some time in school and studying to become a funeral director. Upon returning to Huron County and purchasing Riverside Funeral Home in Brussels, Onn has become involved in numerous community groups while also being elected a Huron East councillor. She is currently a member of the Brussels Horticultural Society and the Brussels Lions Club, serving as its Leo Club leader, in addition to her position with the Brussels Agricultural Society.
It was last year that Onn attended the society’s annual general meeting and members were having trouble finding someone to step into the president’s role with three-time president Dorothy Cummings’ term coming to an end. She took some time to think about it and decided to take the top position.
This came at a time of transition for the society with Secretary/Treasurer Brian Schlosser stepping back and the society opting to split his position into two different roles. Onn will also have a new vice-president under her with a new homecraft president set to take on the role next year. She’ll have a entirely new executive in 2021.
Without a background in agriculture, it was the fabric of rural life that attracted Onn to the society. She was brought in by a friend who asked for her help with managing one of the classes of the fair. With so many classes celebrating the skills and aspects of rural life, fairs like the Brussels Fall Fair do so much to highlight rural life and Onn wanted to be part of it.
After first becoming involved, Onn became a familiar face in Brussels with her high level of community involvement and initiatives like the Brussels Fairy Door Trail and special get-togethers at the funeral home. When she was elected a councillor in 2018, she became even more visible in the Brussels community.
She’s now taking on the top job of the society and is hoping to implement some changes and improve the fair in 2020 and 2021 with the help of the rest of her executive and society members.
For example, Onn is hoping to expand the inflatables section of the fair to bring in more young people, stopping just short of reintroducing the midway. She also wants to bring in young children and have them creating items for the fair on an annual basis, bringing them back for years to come.
Wanting to involve youth in community events and get them out on the town is key to many of Onn’s initiatives. As the Lions Club’s leader of the Leo Club, Onn has worked tirelessly with the youth of the community to get them involved with volunteering at many of the events and organizations the community cherishes.
“The youth don’t really go out and do stuff these days,” Onn said. “I want to make them excited to come out to the fair.”
Onn does acknowledge that she’s taking a leading role in an agricultural society and fair that is revered across the province.
Since becoming involved with the Brussels Agricultural Society, Onn said all she hears about the fair are great things from those involved in other societies in Ontario. She says the volunteer base and participation the Brussels Fall Fair elicits far exceeds that of most fairs the size of the Brussels fair.
Inheriting such a robust volunteer base is encouraging, Onn says, and it has meant that so many things connected to the Brussels Fall Fair “just get done” without her having to give direction or get involved, which is a great feeling for a new leader. A lot of the volunteers have been part of the fair for a very long time, she says, and that level of dedication, commitment and knowledge is something you can’t pay for when it comes to volunteering in small communities.
Having said that, Onn said it’s important for the society to be progressive as well and for it to backfill positions so that when long-time volunteers step away from the society that others can step in.
That, in fact, is one of Onn’s goals to try to make the president’s position easy to step into when she completes her term. That continuity, she said, will aid the society in the long-term.
With an aging population in the village, any form of succession planning will make life easier for the society, Onn said, which is her goal.
As for the fair, she just hopes that as president she can oversee two years of good Brussels Fall Fairs, which she knows she will because of the strength of the volunteers in place.
Personally, Onn just says she wants to have fun in her two years in the position. For all of her volunteer work, having fun is at the core of why she does what she does, so that’s always important to her.
For more information on the Brussels Agricultural Society or the Brussels Fall Fair, visit its website at brusselsfallfair.ca.