Counting down the days before hundreds of 4-H Club members start converging on the Albion Fairgrounds, a group of community volunteers came together this weekend to help get the facilities ready.
At least to get started on what organizers call a huge job.
Cops for Cancer conducted a work party Saturday to help out, since the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre’s inmates who normally assist with setup and tear down of the annual Country Fest fair were not available due to COVID.
Ahmed Bouchiba, deputy sheriff with B.C. Sheriffs and this year’s co-captain for the Cops for Cancer ride, along with Ranjt Seehar, a corporal with Coquitlam RCMP and Tess Ladry, a retired sergeant with Burnaby RCMP were present to help out with the setup.
“We went down there and helped them build the venue, move some stuff around. It was important to us because the event organizers have supported us for a long time now,” said Bouchiba, adding that the generous donation from the fair committee was very helpful considering their fundraising efforts were slowed down due to COVID.
Since a plea went out asking for help through The News and social media last week, a few groups have stepped up, including Cops for Cancer members. The group will receive an honorarium for its help, which is especially important for them, said Country Fest manager Lorraine Bates, noting that Cops for Cancer members haven’t been able to do much of their traditional fundraising events due to COVID.
“COVID or no COVID, cancer never takes a break, so this donation will definitely prove useful,” said Bouchiba.
Bates is happy that the Cops for Cancer team stepped up to the fair’s call for volunteers and said that the cops who came in did some heavy-duty jobs. She also emphasized how important the contributions of the inmates have been over the years.
“In all these years, there has never been a time when they haven’t had our back but this year due to COVID, it was unavoidable,” she said.
The Cop for Cancer volunteers will be back once the fair is wrapped up, to help take down the venue.
In one of the only large-scale 4-H competitions in B.C. being held this year due to pandemic restrictions, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Country Fest is hosting a special, week-long 4-H show later this month that will wrap up with a weekend long concert, explained Bates.
There are 34 clubs and about 400 kids coming to Maple Ridge for this competition, Bates confirmed late this week.
She’s been involved with 4-H for more than three decades, and said for her, bringing the kids back together, giving them a purpose for their agricultural ventures was paramount this year. She noted that all fairs were cancelled last year, including the local Country Fest, due to the virus.
She and her team have been working for a few months to bring the 4-H competition together locally – but to plan it in such a way that it was safe for all involved. Bates feared that COVID could have ultimately spell the demise of the important organization, if something wasn’t done this summer to reignite 4-H activities.
Three different time slots have been created during the week of July 17 through 23 to accommodate the 4-H participants, so they can be spaced out throughout the site and the barns.
In addition to the agricultural component, which Bates still remains the foundation of Country Fest, she said the loosening of COVID restrictions in the past month or so have meant continued changes to this year’s fair.
For instance, just last weekend the tough decision had to be made to cut the home and arts component of the show for 2021 due to a lack of entries, said Bates.
But on the flip side, a few days ago she confirmed there will be a free, in-person concert to wrap up Country Fest. That will be held July 24 and 25 on the main stage of the fairgrounds.
“It’s our way of saying thank you for everybody’s patience in this COVID-time,” said Bates, asking people to bring blankets and lawn chairs as there will be no bleachers or beer garden this year at the fairgrounds located across from Planet Ice on Jim Robson Way.
In the meantime, more volunteers are still needed to help prepare for and tear down after the entire fair, and those interested are invited to contact the fair office via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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