Why Islanders love to flip through the pages of the Rotary supplement

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Why Islanders love to flip through the pages of the Rotary supplement

It's an annual tradition of spring, flipping through the pages of the Rotary advertising supplement. As it celebrates three decades, the popular publication will now also be featured online.

The supplement was the brainchild of John Barrett, a Charlottetown Royal Rotary member and marketing director for Veseys Seeds, who got the idea from a fundraising project he did with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The first photo collection appeared in 1988.

"We were a little overwhelmed actually, people were calling to get more, there was commentary in the newspaper about it being a bit of a who's who," Barrett said. "People were holding onto it as a reference point to say, 'Oh that's what so and so looks like' or 'That's where so and so works.'"

The supplement taps into a prime characteristic of Island life, Barrett said.

"As Islanders, we think we know everybody and we might be a little nosey," he said. "The photographs of the people that we know or we've heard about are very popular."

The 2018 edition features 400 companies and more than 3,500 individuals. 

"It takes about 12 months from start to finish because it's really a volunteer project," said Barrett, who has been the designer since the supplement started.

Berni Wood, of Reel Media Photography, has been shooting photos for the supplement for four years.

"People love to be in the supplement because people save the magazines when they come out, they never seem to throw them away," she said. "People go back and review them and see who works for who, people keep it, year after year after year."

Wood starts making contact at the start of the summer and travels the Island collecting the photos for the supplement.

"It's kind of like Old Home Week because I know most everybody, I've gotten to know their cats and their dogs and I bring treats along," she said. "A lot of people like to feature their pets because their pets may work at the business and people love to see animals in there."

Wood said some businesses take the photo shoot to a whole new level.

"Some clients they really organize and they really plan and they do some fun stuff," she said. "I love the fun ones, I love the creative ones, where people really get into it and want to do something fun." 

The DeBlois family and their bakery, Buns and Things, have been featured in almost every supplement since 1988, one of six businesses that will be featured with a special montage page in this year's edition.

"It was a very pleasant surprise, I knew nothing of it," Rob DeBlois said. "As I kept scrolling down and saw it was the whole page I was quite shocked."

DeBlois, also a Rotary member, said the supplement has staying power and staff at the bakery like to flip through it and pick out everyone they know.

"People can associate a face with a business and that never hurts at all," he said.

Over the years, the magazine has raised more than $2.5 million for Rotary projects, both on and off Prince Edward Island.

"It's been massive," Barrett said. "It's certainly something that our club counts on as the major source of the money that we're able to use to benefit others."

While they will keep the printed version, Barrett is excited by the decision to go digital as well.

"We're very interested to see the reaction to the fact that it's online and I think that will probably help grow our sales even more," he said. "I think it's just going to continue to get bigger and better."

This year's Rotary Club of Charlottetown Royalty advertising supplement will be available online and in local newspapers on Apr. 11.

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