Saturday, 22 September 2012

Carp Fair stays true to its agricultural roots

It’s taken Paul Caldwell more than a decade to get to where he is today.

To be president of the Carp Fair, you have to go through the proper channels. That means spending a year in each of the 12 departments — heavy horses, light horses and dairy among them — before taking the top job.

The wait is worth it. It is, to him, one of the reasons why the fair has maintained its roots century and a half after it started.

“By the time you’re done, (you) realize agriculture’s why we started the fair and that’s the way you keep it,” said Caldwell, 45, who organized the event this year alongside co-president Heather Johnston.

The 149th edition of the fair continues this weekend in the village about a half-hour drive west of downtown Ottawa. It was in full swing on Friday with cattle showings, sheep shearing and the usual displays of corn and other produce.

It may have maintained the same activities over the years, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t grown.

Ian Badham has been coming to the fair since he was the same age as his sons, Austin and Evan. The nine- and 11-year-olds, along with their 14-year-old sister Laura, were showing cattle and pigs over the weekend.

“It’s definitely got bigger,” said Ian Badham, a 41-year-old from Fitzroy Harbour, as he stood leaning against a pen while watching the cattle show.

The ferris wheel was visible in the distance from the northwest side of the fairgrounds where most of the animals are, but organizers want to make sure the focus remains on farming.

“There’s still a lot of working farms here, and we want to promote our local families and not lose our heritage,” said Caldwell. “We want to be an agricultural fair, not a midway.”

They’ve introduced some new events for this year, designed to underscore the area’s traditions.

Visitors will have the chance to churn butter and, if they dare, milk a cow. There were a large number of schoolchildren earlier Friday who Caldwell believed saw their first steam engine.

The fair has grown alongside increased interest in the local club for young farmers. 4-H member Roger Boyd, 17, has noticed a big change since he joined seven years ago and he credits the fair with playing a big role.

The fair has created “a lot more motivation for showing, for sure,” he said just minutes after entering his cow, Zambar. “They’re getting sponsors and stuff like that to support the 4-H and make prizes for us.”

Organizers will also be helping out farmers in the area hit by this summer’s drought. Instead of collecting toonies for troops as they usually do, they’ll be giving the money to food banks so they can buy locally-produced beef.

Paul Caldwell is the latest in a long line of family members to have been in his position. His father Scott was also a president and participation goes back a number of generations.

Caldwell will continue to volunteer his time with the fair even after his time as president comes to an end, though he’ll have a new job (past presidents get placed in charge of antiques.)

But before then he’s hoping this weekend will accomplish the goal he’s had for more than a decade.

“You’re hoping when the city kids leave here that they realize that there’s more than rides,” he said.
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Original Article Here

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