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Young exhibitor ‘gilded the geranium’ at The Picton Fair

Sue Vincent, shown here with her giant pumpkin, is among many Prince Edward County residents getting ready to exhibit at this weekend's Picton Fair. Anybody who wishes to enter must secure an exhibitor number by visiting the Curling Club at the Fairgrounds, or the Picton Gazette office. Items to be entered in the Picton Fair are to be brought to the fairgrounds Thursday, Sept. 8th between 2 - 9 p.m.

By Margaret Haylock Capon
In 1967, Canada’s centennial year, Picton Fair featured many special classes themed to this important occasion. As a first-time exhibitor, I was keen to enter as many of them as possible. After carefully reading the prize list, I chose several categories in the flower division and started making plans. My mother, who had encouraged me to become a fair exhibitor, suggested I might also try my hand at whipping up a few pastries for the home baking section.

Although mother meant well, I was reluctant to make a batch of taffy tarts for the fair. With her guidance and my grandmother’s famous recipe, I had successfully baked these sugary treats in the past, but I did not feel that I had reached competition level. I decided to focus on the flower division, instead.

One of the classes I decided to enter was “best floral arrangement with geraniums”. The key to becoming a winner in this division was a novel way of displaying these blooms. As I contemplated this challenge, mother came up with a brilliant idea. She said, if it was possible to gild the lily, it should be easy to glitz a geranium. I arranged a large bowl of red geraniums in a decorative bowl, then mother shook gold glitter over them. The result was impressive.

One of the centennial flower classes called for a floral arrangement featuring a container reflective of early times. I chose an antique wash bowl and pitcher set that had belonged to my great grandmother and filled the pitcher with cut flowers.

To preserve the freshness of my flowers, it was necessary for me to wait until the afternoon before the opening day of the fair, to cut and arrange them. This left no time for home baking. However, mother had not given up on Project Taffy Tarts. Tentatively, she suggested that perhaps she could bake them and enter them under my name. She said it seemed silly for her to make a separate entry, just for one plate of tarts. It would not really be cheating, for my tarts always looked and tasted the same as hers. Preoccupied with my flowers, I absent-mindedly agreed to her suggestion.

When the time came to take my entries to the fairgrounds, mother brought out her tarts, a lemon meringue pie and a plate of coconut macaroons. Carried away by the excitement of the fair she had been unable to stop herself from whipping up a few more entries for me.

On the opening day of the fair, mother and I arrived at the County Centre eager to see if my floral arrangements had won any prizes. I was delighted when I saw a first place ribbon on my geranium bowl. Obviously, the gold glitter had won points with the judges. It had also impressed one of my fellow competitors. Her exhibit, which had been glitter-free the night before, mysteriously had struck gold. It had surreptitiously been sprinkled in glitter, too.

I was pleased to note that my wash pitcher of cut flowers had placed a respectable third and Puff the Magic Dragon, a vegetable “creature” I had fashioned from a gourd and pine cone “scales”, had taken first prize.

After visiting the flower section, mother and I made our way to the Crystal Palace to view the home baking. For mother, this proved a little disappointing. While “my” coconut macaroons had won first prize, the taffy tarts had finished in second place. The lemon pie, also, was a second place winner.

As we strolled through the fair, several fellow exhibitors congratulated me on my winning entries. Two or three commented that they did not know how I had found the time to do so much baking. Feeling guilty, I replied that it had been a piece of cake.

On the closing day of the fair, father was dispatched to collect my floral exhibits from the arena. When he returned home, he seemed annoyed. Mother asked why he was out of sorts and he replied that my wash pitcher arrangement had gotten him into hot water. After removing the flowers I had displayed in it, because they had begun to wilt, he carried the pitcher to the arena’s side entrance to dump the water it contained. At the door, he stepped forward and threw out the pitcher’s contents. Then he heard an angry yelp. To his mortification, he discovered that he had just soaked the ample posterior of a middle-aged woman who had been bending forward to place some items in the trunk of her car.

Father hurriedly left the arena, stopping at the Crystal Palace to pick up my home baking, on his way home. Perhaps because he had been greatly embarrassed by the water pitcher fiasco, he decided that mother should share in his humiliation. For the next few months, he teased her relentlessly about her “second-rate taffy tarts” and lemon pie.

Rarely, in my lifetime, have I missed attending Picton Fair. It brings back many happy memories for me, including the taffy tart caper and gilding of the geraniums. In Canada’s centennial year, it was a family adventure, just as it is today.

Filed Under: Featured ArticlesMargaret Haylock-Capon

About the Author: Maggie Haylock is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter who has co-authored several books with her husband, Alan Capon.

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