After more than 30 years at the helm, Countryfest fair manager Lorraine Bates has decided to pass on the reins.
Bates, who has been the manager of the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Countryfest since 1991, made the announcement on Sunday – as the gates closed on another successful year.
“I came to the decision a little while back,” explained Bates, adding that most of the board didn’t find out until this past weekend.
“It gets harder and harder for me to do it, and the fair gets bigger and bigger and more demands on me. It’s more than a one-person job,” said the 75-year-old, who was a 4-H leader 12 years before she even became fair manager.
“Sometimes you have to make the best decision – not for yourself, but for the organization,” she said. “It was just time.”
There were a lot of challenges this year, Bates elaborated, the biggest one being no inmates from the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre, who in years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic were on hand to help set up the fair and then tear it down at the end of the weekend.
This year her volunteers had to take on all the extra work.
“That was the deciding factor,” said Bates. “I just can’t watch people who respect me and have worked so hard for me over the years, I just can’t watch them work like that.”
“They went into the fair exhausted and they are still cleaning up after the fair. You can’t do that to people.”
Typically the fair sees about 20,000 people during the two-day weekend. And, this year was no different, said Bates.
“It was a really, really good crowd,” she added.
Bates noted her team did not know what to expect this year in terms of how many people would turn out at the fair. However, after seeing the turnout for the city’s Canada Day celebration in Memorial Peace Park this year, they had a sense there would be a good turnout – despite the fact that they were unable to book a midway or the pig races this year.
More than 30 4-H Clubs also took part in the fair.
“We still hold the title of largest 4-H fair in the province,” said Bates.
Eight children, members of Albertan 4-H clubs, visited the festival on a leadership travel experience with two chaperones.
“They were put to work doing some judging,” Bates said.
This year Countryfest featured a medieval village put on by the Society for Creative Anachronism, where they demonstrated combats and singing. There was also a European Festival, representing a variety of different countries.
Seniors were also honoured at this year’s festival. Friday night seniors were able to get a sneak peek at the children getting their animals and home arts ready for the fair. The Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Katzie Seniors Network provided refreshments and entertainment.
“So they were singing out there and some of them dancing,” described Bates.
Seniors groups even provided entertainment on the main stage on Sunday.
So far there is no official announcement on who will replace Bates.
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