The Mountain Township Agricultural Society [MTAS] held their Annual General Meeting at the Ag Hall in South Mountain on the evening of November 16. Attendees were masked, seated well over two metres apart on chairs spread through the hall, and hands were sanitised at the door. The MTAS has successfully kept the hall open for the community during Covid-19, in part thanks to careful attention to the recommendations of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. The Society is rightfully proud of this accomplishment, as it has allowed groups such as the Mountain Township Lions Club and the Nor-Dun Seniors’ Support Services to continue to operate in modified capacity, with events such as the Lion’s take-out bbq chicken dinner, and the Nor-Dun Carefor Drive-through Diner events.
The Mountain Township Agricultural Society awarded the DL Berry Award for outstanding contributions to the South Mountain Fair and Mountain Township Agricultural Society to Richard Gilmer. Upon presenting the award, the president of the MTAS, Dermid O’Farrell, noted that Richard first joined the MTAS in 1975 as Race Committee Secretary. His father, Dwight Gilmer, was president of the MTAS in 1972-73. Richard served as a Director from 1975 until 1998.
In addition to Race Committee Secretary, he organised the Jersey and Holstein cattle shows, and was President of the MTAS in 1980-81. He took a break from the Fair after 1998, but returned in 2011 to take up a variety of roles, including serving on the Property Subcommittee, helping to plan the 125th anniversary of the Fair, standing as contact for insurance and inventory purposes, and arranging the wagons for the Fair weekend. Mr. Gilmer is stepping down as a Director, but has agreed to continue as a member of the Property and Grounds Subcommittee, where he will continue to contribute with his experience and expertise. In thanking the Society for the Award, Richard told those assembled that he feels “that the board is in really good shape.” He acknowledged that “there were some really lean years,” but believes that there’s a “good blend of old and new people” to continue.
The 2019 South Mountain Fair was cancelled due to Covid-19. Despite this, the MTAS continued to operate without incurring debt. The cancellation of the Fair was a huge loss of revenue, yet there was a feeling of optimism when Dermid O’Farrell, President of the MTAS, said, “We consider its revenue all that [the hall] gives back to the community.” Proceeds from the sale of the lot in Mountain where the old hall stood was donated to the MTAS, and the Society was able to hold some social distanced events through the summer.
Although Covid-19 changed the way things were done, the MTAS was busy in 2020. They held six Drive-In Movie nights, and held the Truck and Tractor Pull on September 19-20, and hosted the Dundas County 4-H Dairy Achievement Day. $14 000 was raised through their Virtual Auction, and they continue to successfully apply for grants, despite Covid-19. A second washroom unit was installed, and the renovations have begun on the information booth at the Fair grounds. Funds have been raised to pave the parking lot, and a committee was initiated to renovate buildings over the next several years, beginning with the Lila Fawcett Exhibit Building on the grounds.
The MTAS has remained active on social media, including Facebook and Instagram, highlighting sponsors. They have sold one of the extra residential lots on the fairgrounds for housing. The Society raised the funds to put new fencing around the horse ring, dedicated to Allison Fawcett, a long-time contributor and promoter of horses and cattle. Finally, as part of a longer 100 Tree Initiative, the Society planted 27 maple trees. As the old adage goes: Wise is the person who plants a tree, knowing they will never sit in its shade.
Some new directors were elected at the meeting, some for one year terms, and some for two. The 2021 South Mountain Fair is scheduled for August 19 to the 22. The 2022 South Mountain Fair is scheduled for August 18 to 21.