In keeping with tradition, Powell River Fall Fair on Saturday, September 16, and Sunday, September 17, will bring the community together to celebrate growing food.
Fall Fair is a throwback to a time when exhibitions were held to mark the end of a long summer of hard farm work when crops had been harvested. In other cities, midways, rides and beer gardens that began as family and farming affairs have mostly replaced the livestock and barns.
“We’ve managed to maintain a farm focus,” said Gary de Casmaker, coordinator of the fair, which is operated by Powell River Farmers’ Agricultural Institute.
In 1932, the first fair was held by Cranberry Lake Ratepayers Association in the midst of the Great Depression, when extreme drought conditions were turning North America’s agricultural heartland, the Great Plains, into a dust bowl.
But here on the Sunshine Coast there was a bounty, according to Barbara Lambert, author of Homesteading and Stump Farming on the West Coast 1880-1930.
“It was the only part of Canada that I know of where there was actually no depression,” said Lambert.
Lambert remembers going to the fall fair when it was located at Willingdon Beach.
“It was lots of fun,” she said. “They had huge areas for vegetables and fruit and everything, and judging. I remember my mother-in-law would take things and she won various prizes that she was extremely proud of.”
Lambert’s mother-in-law was Gertie Lambert. Gertie and her husband, Tom, started farming in Paradise Valley in 1923.
“They were very successful from 1926 to 1936,” said Lambert. “They had the largest goat dairy in the Dominion of Canada; they were wealthy.”
Based on old letters, awards and ribbons that Lambert discovered, she knows her mother-in-law was competing for prizes at the fall fair in the early homesteading years.
“Up and down the coast it was popular to have some kind of place and time of year when you would show off your vegetables and fruit and canning and preserves,” said Lambert.
In 1989, the fair moved to its current location at Padgett and McLeod roads.
According to Donna Anaka, who was one of the individuals involved in starting up the event after a long absence on the local calendar, not much has changed in 28 years.
“People want to see who has entered their canning, baking or flowers,” said Anaka,” and who got first, second and third.”
According to de Casmaker, judging takes place and prizes are awarded in a long list of categories that contestants can enter, including arts, crafts and hobbies, beer and winemaking, clothing and fine arts, fruit, eggs, flowers, canning, baking, vegetables, poultry and other things associated with the rural lifestyle.
de Casmaker said demonstrations of rural skills will also be featured at the fair, including sheepherding, the lost art of spool knitting, cedar weaving, worm composting, nut shelling, solar cooking and electric fencing.
Most vendors who regularly set up for the weekly Powell River Farmers' Market will be in attendance and local musicians will provide entertainment from 12-5 pm both days.
For information on Powell River Fall Fair, go to prfarmers.ca.