CARP – It is the biggest annual general meeting West Carleton Online attends all year, and its little surprise when the annual wrap-up involves the Best Little Fair in Canada.
On Thursday, Jan. 23 evening, more than 72 people gathered at the Carp Fair Agricultural Hall in Carp to listen in and get the wrap-up on the 156th Carp Fair and be introduced to the new presidents for the 2020 operating year.
The meeting is a long one, there’s a lot of ground to cover.
“Congratulations to (President of Agriculture) Doug (Norton), (President of Homecraft) Martha (Palmer) and the entire Carp Fair board on another successful year,” past president (2019) Lisa Belton said.
The AGM includes numbers, statistics and board reports from all departments on the year past. The Carp Fair team does more than just run the best agricultural fair on Canada, they host several fundraising events throughout the year including a tractor and truck pull, bingos, euchre, men’s and ladies’ nights and so much more. The Carp Fair is an integral part of the West Carleton community.
The 156th edition of the fair, held over four days last September, was a huge success. Attendance figures were way up over the previous year, but not a surprise as in 2018 a tornado tore through West Carleton the Friday (Sept. 21, 2018) afternoon of the fair.
From Sept. 27 to 30, 2019 the Carp Fair had 36,514 visitors. There were 133 vendors attending the fair – 25 of them food vendors. Gate admission for 2019 came in at $441,214 – a nearly $43,000 increase over 2018. Total revenue was $794,781 while expenses rolled in at $782,681. Carp Agricultural Society events outside of the fair created a revenue of $398,828 with expenses of $196,401.
Another important announcement at the Carp Fair AGM is the introduction of the new presidents of the board for the new Carp Fair year. The board works on a rotational basis, and a board member must chair every department at the fair before being eligible to become either the homecraft of agriculture president.
This year Ryan Foley was named President of Agriculture and Patricia Boyd was named President of Homecraft.
West Carleton Online caught up with Presidents Foley and Boyd on Monday (Feb. 3) morning at the Carp Fair office.
Foley spent 2019 chairing the Concessions and Truck/Tractor Pull departments while Boyd chaired the Honey, Maple Syrup, Eggs, Beer and Wine, General Store and 50/50 departments.
Boyd grew up just across the Carp Road from the fair – a location much coveted by West Carleton boys and girls growing up in the community. Those who drive to the fair are pretty jealous of the spot too. She joined the fair board in 2009 and had been volunteering for five years before that.
Boyd was brought on to the board by past president Heather Barr.
“The fair has always been a big part of our family,” Boyd told West Carleton Online. “I did not come from a farming family, but my dad always entered things in the fair competition – veggies, photography. It’s part of your life when you grow up here. I live right across the road so we were very popular during the fair. I don’t think I’ve ever missed one, ever. You know everyone on the board, and you want to pitch in to help.”
Foley, a South March native whose family still works on the family farm there, was brought on to the board in 2009 by past president Gordon McCord.
“I came to the fair my whole life,” Foley said.
Foley’s family farm was a beef farm that has switched to cash crops “which we still operate today.”
“Being at the fair as a young child, you never realized how many people it takes to put on the fair,” Foley said. “It’s quite a commitment.”
There are more than 800 volunteers as well as a slew of sponsors that help keep the fair at the top of the eastern Ontario things-to-do list each year. The theme for the 2020 Carp Fair, Focused on Family, is representative of the way things work within the agricultural society.
“We’re so much more than just the fair,” Foley said. “That’s one thing we’re so fortunate with. It truly is a family. Our volunteers come out, they have fun and they stick around and provide consistency and guidance. The volunteers are the glue that keeps it together.”
Foley said that was evident at the AGM.
“Very impressed with the turnout,” Foley said. “It shows the community is invested in our event and that’s a good feeling.”
Although the fair had an increase in numbers, the year was not without its challenges. The board had to cancel the popular annual Carp Fair Truck and Tractor Pull at basically the last minute thanks to weather issues.
“We’re going with June 13 this year,” Foley said. “This year we’re going a bit earlier. We’ll take a bit of rain at the pull for four days of sun at the fair. It doesn’t really matter what obstacle comes up, we’re always ready to adapt.”
While the 12-year process to become a Carp Fair president seems daunting, it’s not a focus for volunteer board members.
“It’s something you don’t think about when you get on the board, it’s 12 years away,” Foley said. “Then all of a sudden, it’s here. It goes by so fast.”
But in that time Foley and Boyd have made life-long friends through their association with the Carp Fair.
“Everybody really comes together,” Boyd said.
Some important Carp Fair dates coming up
- Carp Fair Euchre Saturday, Feb. 15, March 21 and April 25, noon at the Agricultural Hall (see our Events Calendar for more information)
- Men’s Night April 9
- Ladies’ Night April 17
- The Carp Fair Sept. 24 to Sept. 27 (231 days away)