FINCH -- With a few short weeks of hard work ahead of them, organizers are sprinting to the opening of the 2015 Stormont Dundas Glengarry International Plowing Match & Rural Expo (IPM).
"I've not had to wrestle any beasts," says Jim Brownell in a recent interview, of his tenure as IPM Chair. There have been challenges of course, but the volunteers and committee chairs have done a tremendous job of finding solutions and working cooperatively with each other, he says.
They have planned and organized for the better part of three years and are putting those plans into action, finalizing what they hope will be not only the best IPM ever but one that is truly unique to SDG.
"We're unique in that we'll have two flags to celebrate," says Brownell. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag, Joan O'Malley will be the official marshal of the IPM opening day parade. O'Malley is the Ottawa woman who, at the request of her father, a federal public servant, stitched the inaugural red-maple leaf flag in November 1964. The great flag debate was concluded in Parliament on Dec. 15, 1964, and the flag officially flown there on Feb. 15, 1965.
Her iconic Singer sewing machine will also be on display at the British Home Child Exhibit in the History and Heritage Tent on Tues., Sept. 22, to honour her father, Ken Donovan, who was also a British Home Child.
Later in the week, Franco-Ontarians will celebrate Franco-Ontarian Day and the 40th anniversary of their flag at the match.
Historically, Franco-Ontarians meet and celebrate each September in Cornwall with a walking parade and rally, says Brownell. "This year they'll celebrate with us in Finch at the IPM." It will be a good opportunity to acknowledge the significant francophone contribution to agriculture in the United Counties of SDG, he adds.
The gathering will take place on Fri., Sept. 25, and also recognize the 400th anniversary of French presence in Ontario. The noise parade is set for 10:15 a.m. followed by a flag-raising ceremony at 11 a.m. at the History and Heritage Tent.
"We know IPM visitors take the opportunity to see the region when they come to a match," says Brownell, particularly those people staying for a full week in the RV Park. Cornwall and the Counties Tourism have done a great job of putting together several guided day trips so people see everything we have to offer in SDG, he says.
All of the entertainment and many of the special events are from right here in SDG, he says, but there will also be the IPM fan favourites that visitors come to expect like Square Dancing Tractors. "Wait till you see them," he says, of the hilariously choreographed precision driving of the Farmall Team.
Organizers have also done a great job of utilizing that space when the Farmall Team aren't performing, with Highland Games demonstrations on Fri. (Sept. 25) and Sat. (Sept. 26). "I'm pretty excited about that," he says.
For the first time ever, the IPM will have an Auctioneer's Challenge, and the winner will then auction off the 1948 Ford 8N tractor restored by transportation technology students at North Dundas District High School. "That's a full circle of community involvement," the IPM Chair is particularly proud of.
Also featured with a local twist is Farrah Green, a Parelli Natural Horsemanship instructor and her performing horses. She will be joined by the Spirits in Unity Team from Drogheda Manor, a Horsemanship Education Centre in Lunenburg, Ont. Drogheda Manor will give several performances every day of the match.
There are lasting legacies to hosting an IPM: the economic spin-off of having 70,000 to 100,000 visitors to the region; opportunities to showcase SDG and encourage economic development; and the prospect of donating a generous sum of money to local hospitals once all the bills are paid and the operating costs of hosting the event are taken care of.
But Brownell also believes that important relationships have been created and hundreds of volunteers have gained the knowledge that anything can be accomplished.
And then there will be a legacy of memories for the people of SDG. He was 10 years old when the last IPM was held in Crysler in 1958. "I remember it as if it were held yesterday," he says.
"The magnitude of it in a rural area -- I'll remember that forever. It was huge," he says, of his school boy recollections. "Extraordinarily huge!"
In those days, students covered their school books to protect them, and coming from a large family where frugality was a necessity, he was amazed at all the book covers he received from vendors and exhibitors. "Book covers, pens, pencils ... All you ever needed." He's counting on people in SDG to have those kinds of lasting memories created in 2015.