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Milford’s is greatest little fall fair

Visiting the Milford fair from Kingston for the first time, three-year-old Vivian Robinson enjoyed the tractor display.

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Friends, family and community gathered at the County’s unofficial favourite simple country fair, Saturday.

The 73rd edition of the Milford Fall Fair was enjoyed under sunny skies and warm, breezy conditions. As is typical for the Milford Fair, the sun shone through any threat of rain early in the day.

Opening ceremonies with Prince Edward County mayor Steve Ferguson and South Marysburgh councillor John Hirsch began with the singing of the national anthem, and Valencia Logan, Milford Fair Board president thanked all the many volunteers that make the fair happen.

“Last year at this time, we were suffering excruciating heat that was oppressive in the extreme, so this weather is typical of the Milford Fair, though we’ve had a couple of bumps with rain, but the weather couldn’t be more cooperative,” said Ferguson.

Hirsch described it as “Canada’s greatest little fall fair since 1946”, where he noted that he had been introduced to someone that morning who was in the very first parade.

While the fair’s first incarnation at the beginning of the 20th century was as an agricultural fair, it was reinvented in 1946 as a post-war celebration and has continued without a break ever since.

Hirsch thanked the fair board of Valencia Logan, Don Farrington, Dorothy Speirs and “all the rest of the folks that made this happen”.

The fundraising aspect and the theme of this year’s fair was ‘Back the Build’, to raise money to help with the build of the new hospital in Picton, said Hirsch, noting some members of the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation were present and were also in the parade to the fairgrounds.

Milford resident, and PECMHF chair, Barbara McConnell, officially declared the 2019 Milford Fair open.

“We are working hard to raise the funds in the community to build our new hospital, and we hope to put shovels in the ground in 2023, and have our new hospital in place in 2025,” said McConnell.

This year’s Murray Clapp Memorial Citizenship Awards, a tradition since 1988, were given to those who have been a bonus to the community, and were presented by Joyce Minaker, Leona Head and Glendon Walker.

The 2019 Murray Clapp Memorial Citizenship Award recipients: (back row L-R) Mendy Berkson, Glendon Walker (presenter), Brad Leavitt and Kevin Wanamaker; (front row, from left, are:) Leona Head (presenter), Cheryl Wanamaker and Joyce Minaker (presenters); (absent were Janet Keough and Donna Faye Salt).

This year’s recipients were Brad Leavitt, Janet Keough, Donna Faye Salt, Mendy Berkson and Kevin and Cheryl Wanamaker.

Leavitt was thanked for his time and dedication to the fire department having served five years as a volunteer firefighter.

Keough, who was unable to be present, is Picton-born, went to South Marysburgh School and Prince Edward Collegiate Institute and obtained her commercial pilot’s licence doing a lot of training at the Picton Flying Club, and worked as an airborne firefighter for many years. She has been a Black Crick Chick for 12 years, helping to raise money to fight cancer.

Salt was also unable to attend the event, but her brother accepted the award on her behalf.

“Donna Faye has been a volunteer at the Milford fair for many, many years,” said Minaker, and, “She uses her skill as a seamstress in her 4-H volunteer time.”

Berkson was born in Montreal and his speciality is advertising and commercial art.

“Mendy has been active in our community for some time with the recreation committee and the Milford fair,” said Minaker. “He has made the ‘Welcome to Milford’ signs, the winter carnival and Milford bridge signs, as well as several sets for the Mummers. He has certainly made our area of South Marysburgh a prettier place.”

Kevin and Cheryl Wanamaker were nominated as a couple, where Kevin’s life has been on the farm with several acres under his stewardship.

“Being good neighbours and well-liked in our community is a bonus for all of us, congratulations,” added Minaker.

After a morning parade that wended its way from the school, over the bridge, to the fairgrounds, the site hosted myriad activities and games for all ages all afternoon, along with live musical entertainment.

Young fair visitors appreciated the buckets of Lego bricks, some went fishing, there was a drumming circle with Ruth Dwight, and miniature horses to be petted.

Inside the shed, exhibits of vegetables, flowers and plants, crafts, photography, art and more filled tables and walls, and included children’s displays.

Bruce Dowdell, president emeritus, has played a big role in the Milford community for many years, including with the recreation committee and the Marysburgh Mummers, as well as the fair with two terms as fair president under his belt.

“It’s a wonderful thing, the whole community is wonderful,” said Dowdell, adding, “If we can just keep the excitement going and the volunteers.”

“For a little country fair the parade is great, the music, it’s just the atmosphere of the whole fair,” he said. “I look around and I see that everybody’s having fun and that’s the main thing. That’s what’s important.”

Dowdell said the fair started off very simple and they try and keep it the same from year-to-year.

His favourite element of the fair used to be the cow paddy bingo, but that has long gone he says. “It was crazy, but it had a certain ring to it.”

“I have always looked at it not so much as a fair, but a big family picnic; the kids come, they have their races, there’s games and skill-type things for the adults, like the sheaf throwing and the log sawing, and the kids get to paint pumpkins.

“I still maintain that we have retained that simple fair and I think that’s important,” added Dowdell, who said he was encouraged of late to see a lot of younger people getting involved.

Brian Musselwhite, left, received the 2019 South Marysburgh Bridge Challenge trophy from Bruce Dowdell. Black River won the tie-breaking year.

He also took pleasure in announcing Black River Bridge as the winner of the third annual South Marysburgh Bridge Challenge between Milford and Black River.

He presented co-founder of the friendly competition, Brian Musselwhite with the trophy.

“Next year, it’s our turn!” joked Dowdell.

This was the third year for the friendly community competition, which saw Black River win in the first year and Milford in the second year, making this the tie-breaker year.

Conrad Biernacki, co-founder of the challenge said it was interesting how the competition started.

“Milford had flower boxes on its bridge and I always thought they were very attractive,” he said. “I thought, we have a bridge in Black River, it would be nice to have flowers on our bridge too.”

The South Marysburgh Recreation Board provided funding for the construction of the boxes and the planting of them each year. Volunteers attend to watering of the boxes throughout the summer.

“We got a group of impartial judges to evaluate both bridges and score them on different criteria and come up with a winner.”

A fun tradition for many years at the fall fair is the attendee contest.

Of the six categories, beginning with farthest distance travelled by someone to be at the fair, the winner was a young lady from Brazil. The oldest person at the fair was 96, and the largest family at the fair boasted 15 members.

The afternoon continued with sack races for the kids, as well as egg and spoon races, where a tennis ball replaced the egg.

Tractors, old and new, were on display to admire and sit on along with a display of farm equipment. Horse-drawn wagon rides took folks on a short tour of Milford.

For the adults, there was log sawing, nail driving and a fair favourite, ‘County folk chucking stuff’.

The Fraser family won the biggest family at the fair mention this year.

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  1. Thanks to all who attended South Marysburgh premier social event of the year!

    It’s a lot of work for our volunteers to put the fair on but the smiles of all those who attended make it worth while.

    We will be posting some photos and videos at for those who couldn’t attend.

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