Spencerville Ag Society in wait-and-see mode on holding ‘real’ fair in 2021

Van Dusen photo, Nation Valley News

Tom Van Dusen
Nation Valley News

SPENCERVILLE — The Spencerville Agricultural Society will decide at its regular meeting March 8 whether to hold a second virtual fair in 2021 or go ahead with a smaller “real” 166th annual fair.

The decision came at Monday’s annual fair board meeting held on Zoom which drew about 35 participants. In the same COVID-19 boat as other Ontario societies, executive members first suggested holding off until May but Secretary Esther Vrieze said there wouldn’t be enough lead time to get ready for a full fair Sept. 9-12. With the template in place from last year, creation of a new virtual fair will be much easier, Vrieze said.

While Spencerville society members have received tributes from far and wide about the quality of their virtual production in 2020, they’d much rather get back to the real thing. The decision revolves entirely around the status of C-19 and any lockdowns in place come spring.

Robertson Midways has contacted the board to let it now it will be able to service a full if smaller fair should that be the decision.

Sitting in for part of the meeting was Liz O’Gorman-Smit, 2nd Vice-President of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies, who complimented Spencerville for its “phenomenal” virtual production, one of the most elaborate attempts undertaken in the province at a total cost of $12,000… some $9,000 of which was given out in prize money. Almost all of the work was done on a volunteer basis.

While the OAAS got in under the COVID wire in 2020, this year it’s holding its annual meeting virtually, O’Gorman-Smit said. Registration for the Feb. 15-20 conference is $100 per delegate; the business meeting portion will be open access. With the association celebrating its 175th anniversary, there’ll be a long line up of speakers, educational opportunities and seminars, tradeshow, talent showcase and even a virtual hospitality suite.

While the OAAS executive would prefer the real thing, it has underlined the financial advantages of no travel, no paid accommodation, no restaurant dining, no time off work, and participating from the comfort of home in having “Gone Virtual”… the conference theme.

Despite no real fair in 2020 – or more likely because of it – the Spencerville society is looking at a better bottom line at the moment than ever before, said Treasurer Mike Stephenson. After deducting maintenance expenses for grounds and buildings from revenues, including $45,500 in donations and winter storage rentals, there’s $84,300 remaining in the kitty.

Mounting the real fair means about $300,000 “in and out” every year, Stephenson said. The objective is to break even and that usually happens… although not always in bad weather years when donations and fundraisers are relied upon to make up the difference.

Setting aside the comfortable financial position – which drew “super-fantastic” praise from the board – Stephenson would prefer a reality fair in 2021 if at all possible. On the other hand, he’s proud of the effort put in to stage a virtual fair last year in order to keep the tradition alive.

There were no elections at the annual meeting for the top executive positions, the board having approved a constitutional change that the executive shall remain in place for another year in the event of a pandemic or natural disaster. Any resignations will be replaced from within the ranks.

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