Letter: Carp Fair co-president Ryan Foley talks 2020

(The following statement was written by 2020 Carp Fair co-president Ryan Foley. One of the most heart-warming moments of the Carp Fair Homecoming held the Thursday night of the fair, is the speech from the co-presidents. It is a moving account of the year just celebrated and the work put in to hosting such an incredible event. For all Carp Fair presidents, they have been on the board for at least 12 years. Obviously, this year the co-presidents (Patricia Boyd is the other co-president) weren’t afforded the luxury. Foley posted this letter on social media Saturday, Sept. 28.):

To the Editor:

2020, what a year.

This is not the year that I was thinking it was going to be when I was asked to be a member of the Carp Agricultural Society. I have had a hand in organizing 11 exciting and entertaining fairs. Things started out as normal in 2020, with our AGM and meetings to start the planning of this year’s fair all was going as planned until March. With the outbreak of the pandemic we were thrust into the unknown. How long will this last? It will be over by September, right? As the days and weeks rolled by it was obvious COVID-19 was here to stay.

This has definitely been an odd year for me, with the loss of events through the year. Men’s night, Ladies night, two euchres were cancelled, bingos put on hold then cancelled, the truck and tractor pull was also cancelled. Agricultural meetings normally held each month were transitioned to ZOOM meetings. It was vastly different.

You look forward to your year as president (it takes 12 years in case you did not know) the memories are what I looked forward to the most. Having 500 to 600 men gather to share a meal and catch up on any news. The always entertaining Ladies Night that is truly a sight to see. Getting the opportunity to call the numbers at the bingos and see all the people squeezing their dabbers hoping the last number they need is called to win the jackpot or 50/50 game. The Annual Truck and Tractor Pull was cancelled, so there were no bragging rights to be had this year that you had the best pulling vehicle in the area.

Then it would normally come to set-up time, a busy time for all directors and volunteers to prep for the “best little fair in Canada.” I think this is the hardest part for me. Getting to see everyone come out and set the grounds up, all the hard work that goes into the fair each year. Most people that attend the fair each year do not realize it is all put on by volunteers. Many people ask me why do you do it? It is so time consuming and at times stressful. We all do it for the community, for the kids to enjoy the rides, attractions and the atmosphere, and to keep agriculture alive. I will miss the set-up days, the fantastic meals put on by the “Kitchen Ladies.” I miss the jokes told by past presidents, I will miss the stories and knowledge they pass down to the current board. Then the fair starts, and it is wonderful. You see the delight in the patrons’ eyes as they flood through the gate to get to their favorite ride or to get their favorite food.

I guess one of the things that I will miss the most is the opening ceremonies on Saturday and the parade. I will miss the opportunity to ride into centre ring with my family, to see a packed grandstand and to thank everyone. And there are many to thank.

First, my wife Crystal, you have been so important to me being on the fair board. While I attend countless meetings, work bees and events and you never complaining about it. To my kids Cooper and Presley, missing out on time with you to be at the fair or fair events. To my parents for helping with sponsorship, equipment or bouncing ideas off them. My brother Russell for being on call if needed to fix something at a moment notice around the grounds. My sister Judy for ideas that we could try around the grounds. All my Aunts and uncles who help around the grounds. To all my friends who I have called on to help swing stalls or help at events over the past 11 years. I want to thank the sponsors, exhibitors, vendors, and finally the huge group of volunteers that make the whole thing come together. I would also like to thank my co-president Patricia Boyd for her help and dedication over the time we have been partners on the board and the office staff for all the work they have helped with over these years. I would like to thank our Coun. Eli El-Chantiry for always being a supporter of our fair. Dr. Merrilee Fullerton for her support of the fair, Mayor Jim Watson, the City of Ottawa and the Province of Ontario for their support of agriculture.

I guess one thing I wont miss is having to say this speech in centre ring, and you all see me crying. Thanks to everyone that has in the past or in the future has been part of our fair family.

Drive on and see ya at the 2021 carp fair!