Nearly 1,000 seniors enjoy this year’s Senior Fair

Close to 1,000 seniors from across Chatham-Kent converged at the Blenheim Memorial Arena Rec Centre for the third edition of the revised Blenheim Senior Fair on June 14.

At the 37th annual event, the guests were treated to a morning full of activities, expert advice, and a free lunch.

And most importantly, they enjoyed spending time with old friends and making new ones.

“We heard a lot of positive feedback on how much they loved everything ... the entertainment, the exhibitors,” said Bobbi-Jo Ferren, Coordinator of the Blenheim & Community Senior Centre.

Guests roamed the exhibitors’ section, which included 70 businesses and organizations offering information, services, and products for seniors.

The Quatro Blue quartet band provided entertainment.

Kim Netherley led the interactive belly and line dancing while Amy Daulton guided the guests through Zumba exercises.

“It was nice to see so many people out on the floor joining the activities,” Ferren said.

Volunteers from the Senior Centre helped serve the lunch and assisted in many other facets throughout the arena.

“We couldn’t do this without our volunteers; this is quite the undertaking,” Ferren said.

The longest-running senior fair in Chatham-Kent is held annually on the second Friday of June in conjunction with Seniors Month in Ontario.

This was the third year the Blenheim & Community Senior Centre hosted the popular event strictly as a senior fair after the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing around 900-1,000 visitors each time.

The inaugural Blenheim Senior Fair was held in 1987, and the Senior Achievement awards were introduced the following year.

The event name was changed to the Chatham-Kent Senior Fair with amalgamation in 1998 and renamed the Chatham-Kent Senior Expo & Achievement Awards in 2014.

The Senior Achievement Awards ceremony was a staple. All nominees received a certificate and were personally greeted by municipal, provincial, and federal government representatives.

The pandemic forced the awards presentation to a virtual presence in 2020 and 2021.

The Chatham-Kent Celebration of Older Adults was introduced in the fall of 2021, as the new group took over the awards process and moved the Senior of the Year presentation to an online format.

The municipality’s annual $3,000 base budget funding for the Blenheim Senior Fair ceased after its 2022 event. Those funds now go to the Celebration of Older Adults, as the committee relies on other grant programs and fundraising to offset expenses such as rent, insurance, and food.

Ferren said the fair committee is grateful to receive funding from Together CK, a matching fund, and one-time funding from the Ontario Senior Secretariat to assist with this year’s event.

Ferren said the Senior Centre is also “very thankful” for the financial contributions from the Ridge Landfill Community Trust, which helps keep programs affordable to members.

Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News