Presidents: Fair committed to community

CARP – It’s experience that prepares you for the unknown. That’s why getting to the top spot on the Carp Fair board of executive is a 13-year process.

Let’s be honest, the Carp Fair is what put Carp on the map. The soon-to-be 156-year-old agricultural fair is known across the country on its way to earning the title The Best Little Fair in Canada. If you grew up in West Carleton, the fair was your parents’ do-not-miss event of the fall before you were old enough for it to be your do-not-miss event of the fall.

None of it happens by accident and it takes a huge team to continue to grow and continue to honour that legendary tradition.

To become either the Carp Fair’s president of agriculture or president of homecraft you have to serve on the board for 13 years working on each committee.

“It’s an extremely busy organization,” 2019 President of Agriculture Doug Norton told West Carleton Online. “We’re a complete rotational board. You have to do all of the different positions.”

It’s not just the four-day fair running this year from Sept. 26 to Sept. 29 the board organizes. They host euchres, drive-in bingos, Men’s Nights, Ladies Nights, dances and many other special events.

Norton and President of Homecraft Martha Palmer sat down with West Carleton Online on April 11 (editor’s note: this story was delated due to West Carleton Online’s coverage of recent flooding) at the Carp Fair’s offices conveniently located on the Carp fairgrounds.

Norton first started volunteering with the fair in 1988 even though he was a Calabogie resident. He moved to the Carp area in 2000 and joined the fair board in 2008. Norton runs a small construction company. He credits past president Lee Cavanagh with bringing him on.

“We got to know the board members well at the time,” Norton said. “It was a lot of fun just to come and volunteer. It’s been good. It’s an amazing group of people. Even the surrounding fair boards. You meet people from all across Canada and the U.S. The fair is very well known across the country. You’re talking with organizers of the Calgary Stampede and they go ‘we know people from there.’”

Norton says the crew in Carp is pretty good too.

“We have a volunteer base of roughly 600 people,” Norton said. “Each one does so much. We have a volunteer that has been running euchre for 23 years. It’s four times a year. He’s missed two. That’s the kind of commitment our volunteers have. Past presidents tend to stick around and they’re the voice of experience and we value that.”

Palmer and her family moved to the Carp area in 1994.

“Probably one of the reasons we moved here was because of the fair,” Palmer said.

She says viewing the home during the fair might have influenced them a bit.

Palmer is an educator. She is currently a principal in Stittsville and was the principal of St. Michael’s Corkery Catholic School for about four-and-a-half years.

“Our family believes in volunteerism,” she said.

Palmer was a member of the Huntley Community Association before joining the Carp Fair board in 2007. She was excited to join the team.

“The level of integration in to the community and the values it stands for,” Palmer says are reasons that attracted her to the fair. “There are so many events throughout the year that promote community and family.”

While the fair’s success is guaranteed, it has not been without challenges. Last year, the first morning of the fair was interrupted by a tornado. While the tornado wasn’t close enough to cause damage to the fair, organizers shut it down and focused on the safety of those on the fairgrounds. It turned out the fair might have been a lifesaver, as many credit being at the Carp Fair for why they weren’t home when their house was destroyed.

In true Carp Fair fashion, funds started being raised for the tornado affected the very next day. The Carp Fair is where the West Carleton Warriors kicked off their fundraising efforts that ended up earning the team the Good Deeds Cup and $100,000 for disaster relief.

The fair held its own fundraiser just a couple of weeks later and raised more than $100,000 for disaster relief.

“We are well-versed in our emergency relief, unfortunately,” Palmer said. “We’ve had different challenges, but we have great ideas that always help us put on another great fair.”

Norton says when disasters like that strike, and there’s been three in the last two years in West Carleton, it always hits close to home.

“Three members, a director, a past president, lost their homes,” he said. “The community and the fair board we’re all deeply affected. A few weeks later we were able to raise $100,000. Usually after the fair we want to go lie down and rest for a few days. That’s just the way the fair goes. That’s why our theme is connected to the community.”

“We really looked at how we help support the community,” Palmer said. “We have a very generous following and we’re lucky that way. One call and people say ‘how can I help?’”

For more information on this year’s Carp Fair, click here.