Story by Barbara Gebuhr
After 103 years, one might think that there is nothing new at the Albert County Exhibition – but you would be wrong! The twenty directors of the ACE work hard to come up with things to delight people of all ages.
There will be all kinds of food. This year, the canteen will expand to include a special Curly Fry stand --a whole building dedicated to these very thin spiral slices of potato, deep-fried and salty- true carnival food! Canteen manager, Andrew Akerley, has a friendly competition each year with Dining Hall manager, Bev Best, to see which venue brings in the most profit.
Click here for full schedule of events.
Bev and her team of volunteers return year after year. When asked why she would take a week’s vacation and work so hard for free, Bev said, “Because I love it. I meet so many people, as well as old friends. I love to see the Caledonia students each year – how they improve over the four days of working here. Older community members come back to teach the kids how to prep the meal – we go through plenty of band-aids as they learn to peel vegetables!”
For many years, the grade 12 students from Caledonia Regional High School have worked in the dining hall to offset the cost of their graduation week expenses. For each shift they or a family member or friend work, for each jar of pickles, pies, or rolls donated in their name, a certain amount of money is subtracted from that total. For most grads, by the time the four days are up, they are looking at a free week of fun in June! And for the diners - they are treated to homemade goodies donated in the name of a grad. It’s a win-win. And for Bev and her team, there are days filled with laughter and joking between kids and adults, all working toward a common goal.
This year's Exhibition book is dedicated to Winston Steeves, who was “the announcing voice” of the ACE for many years. As a young boy he attended the fair with his family ...and Winston continued throughout his life to be involved with the Fair, exhibiting horses in both riding and driving classes, as well as serving on the Board of Directors. There are few over the age of five who wouldn’t remember his inimitable style announcing classes and events, and encouraging and joking with the dozens of school kids on the Friday morning School Events. He made so many people laugh!
Dawne McLean has been organizing the Queen Pageant since 1983. Always a popular event, the contestants are enrolled in grades 9-12. A panel of independent judges interviews the contestants who are judged on their involvement with the exhibition, their poise, personality, communication skills and community volunteer work. The Queen is crowned each Thursday following the Official Opening. Dawne talked about the pleasure of working on the board of directors, with the Queen contest becoming a rewarding experience where young women can be recognized and encouraged for volunteering.
Another spot visited by many people is the Exhibition Hall – a place to see who has grown outstanding vegetables and fruits, which children are creative, whose baking tickled a judge’s sweet tooth, and who has done the most exquisite crafts. Stephen Holmstrom has been organizing the exhibits and “manning his post” for many years. He notes that a lot of tourists come through and are “blown away at the idea of so much displayed in such a little area; Europeans, especially, are impressed with the amount that is showcased.”
Stephen notes a decline in the number of exhibitors and wishes more young people would enter. Freezing is becoming a popular alternative to canning, but he encourages anyone to enter, to bring more of their crops and crafts to the hall. He and his wife Elaine put together a prize package for a ticket draw to raise money for the Exhibit Hall. The ribbons and prizes for the children cost a lot of money; last year their draw raised $600 for the recognition awards. Stephen finds “great joy from the people who look at the exhibits and comment favourably on them. It’s a pride in our community that brings me back year after year.”
Robin Stuart, a young mother of two preschoolers with a full-time job, has taken on the role of director recently. “Because I’ve always been a part of the fair, it’s in my blood. It’s great to be part of something where my voice makes a difference – where my ideas can make people happy and hopefully enjoy the fair as much as I always have.” She is coordinating the children’s activities on Sunday afternoon. She kept some of the classics, like the Doll Carriage Parade but added a Trucks and Tractors event, (bikes and trikes are also welcome) decorated in a farming theme. There will be a “Fair-themed Costume” parade this year (a living carousel was seen in a past contest). Children will dress as something to do with the ACE. Robin has arranged for a magician in the Oulton Hall on Saturday afternoon. The children will be amazed and delighted. Later, the magician will sell balloon creations out on the midway.
Terry Steeves, ACE President since 2005, has been dedicated to bringing improvements to the fairgrounds and the facilities, so the Exhibition site, which now includes a roofed arena, can be used for other community activities and events. Another who takes holidays to be available for all kinds of trouble-shooting for the “Fair Week” as well as working hard all year with the ACE always on his mind.
A common theme is “Giving Back” to the community, on the part of all twenty directors of the ACE Board. No one is paid for their countless hours of volunteering; many take yearly vacation time in order to spend it on behind the scenes work, using tractors and equipment from their own barns, washing innumerable dishes, cleaning up, getting exhibits ready – the hundreds of unremarkable jobs that make the Fair what it is each year. As Robin reminded me, this is a 12-month commitment, the planning and preparation is done year-round, not just in September. As Bev Best put it – “It’s a country thing – we are all passionate about it.”
The Albert County Exhibition runs from Thursday, September 15 through Sunday, September 18. For a more complete listing of events, visit www.ConnectingAlbertCounty.org and click on ‘Calendar.’
About the Author: Barbara Gebuhr is a retired teacher and principal, mom, grandma and great-grandma, secretary of Chipoudy Communities Revitalization Committee and other community organizations.