The Dundas Plowing Match’s 80th anniversary fair was well attended over the weekend. A new event this time around was tug-of-war, which attracted between 200 to 300 spectators to both the preliminary showdowns on Tuesday and the finals on Thursday leading up to the regular Plowing Match weekend events.
“It was great, there was a huge crowd,” Gordon Jackson, a member of the organizing committee, said.
Five women’s teams and three mens’ teams faced off. Five teams were from Souris and coached by Dwayne Lutz, a keen competitor. But the Central Kings Fire Department didn’t shy away from challenging the well-practiced Souris teams, nor did a group of locals, mostly from Vernon River and Mount Stewart called The Hay Making Hogavores.
Mr Jackson estimates overall, attendance at the 2022 fair was on par with 2019, despite a two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.
There were fewer overnight campers this season but attendance balanced out in other ways. Decent crowds gathered Friday afternoon for festivities including the long-favoured Queen of the Furrows competition. Seven youth competed for the crown.
This marked a significant uptick in interest since 2018 when organizers called the pageant off due to low participation.
“People were packed shoulder-to-shoulder for the dance Saturday night,” Paula Matheson, another fair organizer said.
“I think people were really happy to have something to get out and do.”
There was no midway this year which left a slight gap in activities for youth ages 13-16, Ms Matheson said. The committee will be looking for ways to close that gap next year. Ms Matheson invites feedback directly to committee members from those who attended the fair.
“If we don’t hear from people directly, we won’t know how to improve,” she said.
To make up for the midway gap, there was a giant bouncy castle and slide where a continuous stream of kiddos launched themselves around the inflatables, rode inflatable animals, pedaled tractors, ate cotton candy and responded in numbers to creative face paint designs.
Ms Matheson isn’t sure if the midway will return moving forward, it would depend on a number of factors.
The exhibition room was filled with quilts, baked goods, vegetables and other products.
An increased local interest in preserving food really stood out, Ms Matheson said.
“It seemed like there were more submissions than usual,” she added, the variety of entries was impressive.
Similar crowd sizes to previous years watched and participated in a number of horse and cattle shows.
“There may have been an improvement in quality this year,” Ms Matheson said about cattle.
Cattle class judge Julie Mutch made comments a few times throughout the event to suggest she was impressed by the quality she was evaluating.
“Cattle producers may have taken time over the past couple years to re-evaluate their programs,” Ms Matheson speculates.
Locals were hootin’ and hollerin’ through the horse and antique tractor pulls well into the evening Sunday until the fair came to a close.
The organizing committee will work to release more competition results online over the following months but for now, Ms Matheson was able to share the following three Tug-of-War class winners: The D-Dogs of Souris in the women’s featherweight category; Dwayne’s Draggers of Souris in the women’s lightweight category and Lutz’s Luggers in the Men’s Heavyweight category.
Susan and Sandra MacKinnon, with MacKinnon Homestead in Kinross, won the cattle show’s title of supreme champion male and Daniel Naddy of Bayview Farms in Orwell Cove won Supreme female with his 2-year-old pair Harley Quinn and her calf Bayview Kyra.
Mr Jackson wants to send a big shout out to the volunteers who brought the festival to life for its anniversary year.
“There were about 10 new faces, all community members who really stepped up and for days leading up to the event they were hauling benches, painting and doing any number of things. It really took the pressure off the committee,” he said.
“Volunteers and sponsors make this event possible,” Paula Matheson said. She hopes more locals get in touch so they can build on a list of people they can call on here and there even for an hour or two to help in the lead-up to next year’s festival.
“Signing up to volunteer doesn’t mean you have to make a huge commitment or attend meetings,” Ms Matheson said.
Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic