An overwhelming sadness has settled over the fairgrounds this year as volunteers set up for Country Fest.
This is the first year without long-time volunteer Tom Cameron, well-known for the many hours he put into the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows agricultural festival and the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society.
Cameron, 74, died of leukemia in December last year.
“There’s all kinds of things he just took care of. Like the things on the grounds and the bleachers and the insurance and the dumpsters and all that kind of stuff,” said Lorraine Bates, manager of Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Country Fest.
“So I’m having to learn a new trade almost,” she chuckled mournfully, adding that Cameron kept a lot of his ideas and skills in his head.
“He gave it such a good fight and he believed he could lick it and he believed in miracles. You can’t ask a man with that much passion to empty his head because he is dying,” said Bates.
She said some things have fallen through the cracks, but the volunteer team has stepped up to resolve those issues before the fair this weekend.
Bates decided to honour Cameron’s memory this year with a special tribute concert on Sunday.
The country music tribute will take place on the main stage by the mountain ash tree that was planted in his memory at his celebration of life last year.
Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission MP Dan Ruimy will start off the tribute with a speech in Cameron’s honour.
Then Cassie Jean will start the show. Jean has opened for Lonestar and Rascal Flatts and has also performed with the Beach Boys. She has headlined at the Northwest Washington State Fair and also performed at the British Columbia Country Music Awards.
Victor Cronley will be taking the stage next followed by Willy Blizzard, a B.C. indie band that has covered Canada from coast to coast.
Willy Blizzard’s lead vocalist and songwriter John Hough has shared the stage with David Rea, Jesse Winchester and Valdy, with performance credits that include the Vancouver Folk Festival, the Mission Folk Festival, the Filberg Festival and the Harrison Festival of the Arts.
The final artist in the tribute will be Canadian singer-songwriter Patsy Thompson. Thompson is influenced by the sounds of Patsy Cline, Bonnie Raitt, KoKo Taylor and Kris Kristofferson. She recently recorded a new song called Joy Ride with the well-known Vancouver rock band The Odds that will be released nationwide.
Cameron had a huge impact on everybody he met in life.
Even the volunteers are having a hard time coming into the office because he is not on the fairgrounds this year. He is not laughing at his desk.
A lot of the volunteers have gravitated to his tree.
“He had such an impact on everybody, from the students in the office right up to the elderly volunteers that we have and the city workers and the dog walkers. There is nobody that he hasn’t impacted,” Bates said, adding that he wasn’t a large man but he filled a room.
And everything that he did came naturally to him, especially when it came to helping children.
“He had this huge heart that melted for every child that he cast his eyes on,” she said.
Bates feels that he would have wanted them to carry on. His own philosophy was ‘get’er done.’
“I feel him here all the time,” she said.
The Country Tribute to Tom will begin at 11:30 a.m. on July 30 at the Canadian Heritage Stage in the middle of the Albion Fairgrounds.
• 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. opening speech by Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Dan Ruimy;
• 12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. Cassie Jean;
• 1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. Victor Cronley;
• 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. Willy Blizzard;
• 3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Patsy Thompson.