Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Community, Country Fairs, and Cancellation

The note on the Wood Buffalo Country Fair website is short, but succinct:

August 17, 2012
It is with a heavy heart that we have to announce that the 2012 Wood Buffalo Country Fair has beenCANCELLED.
Due to the ongoing issues between some of the residents in the area, Dunvegan Gardens and the Municipality, we have become an unfortunate casualty and were told we could not hold the event there. This saddened us as Dunvegan Gardens and the Wood Buffalo Country Fair were so looking forward to partnering, and to have the perfect location to have the showcase of all the talent in Fort McMurray – in the country.
Our hope is that a resolution can be found and that we can have our event out there next year, but time will tell, and so will this Website. Please keep in touch with us and as soon as we have information on the 2013 event we will let you all know.
Keep making your treasures, and have them ready to go next year.
A very sad Wood Buffalo Country Fair Committee
PS: Please lend your continued support to Dunvegan Gardens by attending their Corn Maze which will have its grand opening on September 1st between 11am and 4 pm.

I think the note betrays the sorrow felt by the organizing committee of the country fair, and I suspect it captures the disappointment felt by those who try to attend the country fair, too. People like me, and the Intrepid Junior Blogger.

Country fairs are events that date back hundreds of years, to a time when country folk would take a break from their busy lives tending their stock and crops and meet for a few days of camaraderie and competition. There is something very nostalgic about country fairs, about competitions that involve things like quilt making and baking, vegetable growing and knitting. There is something in the country fair that hearkens back to a time when things were simple and pure, and when the good things in life were formed in the loving hands of members of your community, and not a factory in China. And this is why I have always loved the country fair right here in our region, but this year there is no fair. This year it has been cancelled due to an ongoing dispute between local greenhouse Dunvegan Gardens, some residents on Draper Road, and the RMWB.

I've written about the dispute on Draper Road before, you see. And in the past I understood the point of view of the residents when they expressed concerns over the increase in industrial activity in the area, about large trucks and large loads affecting their quality of life. From what I understand complaints about the Country Fair being held at Dunvegan Gardens are the reason the RMWB stepped in and reviewed the zoning. When that review was complete they decided that the Fair requires a development permit, a permit Dunvegan does not have, and so the fair could not be held there. Given such short notice the Country Fair organizers had little choice but to cancel, likely breaking their own hearts in the process.

What I do not understand is why anyone would complain about a Country Fair. Yes, there will be some increased traffic (although with new developments coming on line Draper Road is going to see much more traffic in the future, so this is not going to be unusual). And yes, it might get noisy - with the sound of laughter and talking as people enjoy a country fair atmosphere in our own little slice of country in this region. Perhaps it's just me but I think the sound of laughter and happy chatter is a delightful noise. I think we could use more if it, not less. But with the death of this year's country fair those happy voices are quieted this year - to the detriment of us all.

I fear what this could mean for things like the Corn Maze built and operated by Dunvegan Gardens, and Chateau Boo, the hugely popular fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club (held there as well, and an event that regularly makes me cry as I frighten fairly easily), and the annual Easter Egg Hunt. Will complaints about those events lead to their cancellation? Will complaints about events that are happy and that contribute to our quality of life in this community end up cancelled this year like the country fair? I hope not - but I fear that those who would complain about a country fair will not stop there.

In respect to the Draper Road residents - I fully understand and share their concerns about industrial development in area where there are residences and an expectation of a country residential style neighbourhood. In respect to the RMWB - I fully understand that they had no choice but to adhere to the zoning, although I suspect without a complaint they would have never looked into the matter at all. In the end what I do not understand is how anyone can complain about a country fair being held in the country at a greenhouse, in what seems the most natural setting for an event of that nature. I do not understand how a dispute over industrial activity has now become a dispute over lovely little events like a country fair (except to say that disputes between neighbours often take such turns, becoming less and less about the issues and more and more about the individuals). I do not understand how anyone can think the cancellation of a country fair is good for anyone, or how anyone can think a complaint leading to such a cancellation is anything but a hollow victory. All that has happened is that the happy voices of members of our community have been silenced this year, unable to partake in a tradition that is as old as  time. All that has happened is a loss. And while the organizers of the country fair are sorry, I am sorry too - because this is a loss to our community, and I fear that more loss may come.

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