Sooke’s Fall Fair appeal spans generations

Children and youth have a major role in the annual fair

Ida John McDonald loves spinning fibres, a skill that she puts to good use at the Sooke Fall Fair as she competes for prizes. McDonald also loves passing along her skills to the next generation of spinners. (contributed)

The Sooke Fall Fair is a perfect example of how traditions pass from generation to generation, says Ellen Lewers, the president of the fair’s organizing committee.

Fall fairs are ubiquitous to rural communities, providing a link to a time when agriculture was the predominant economic activity and when the fair gave the community a chance to gather and measure their skills against their neighbours in what was always a good-natured competition.

The fair was a chance to learn, brag, and just meet the others in the community.

Not much has changed in Sooke, said Lewers, and this year’s theme of rooted in tradition couldn’t be more appropriate.

RELATED: Rooted in tradition

“Even though the community of Sooke has grown and changed in many ways, the link to our agricultural roots is still very strong,” Lewers said.

“We have people entering the fair today whose parents and grandparents also participated in years past. It’s become a family tradition for some.”

That’s certainly the case for Ida John McDonald whose mother loved flowers and would annually enter her prize roses into the fair.

“I grow the roses now. They’re a tradition in my family,” she said.”

But for McDonald, entering the fall fair goes beyond the flower competition. Some 30 years ago she learned the art of spinning fibres from an elderly neighbour and she’s been at it ever since.

“I spin sheep, llama and alpaca fibres as well as a host of other fibres, most of which I source locally. I get wool from Cherry Lane Farm from their Black Welsh Mountain Sheep and from their llamas and its such a joy to use those fibres in what is in danger of becoming a dying art.”

But McDonald added that thanks to her presentations at the fall fair and elsewhere, a lot of young people are starting to get interested in spinning.

“The young kids are quite intrigued and a lot of teens want to try.”

Seeing young people get involved in the fair’s competitions is something that Laura Vowles has experienced first hand.

“I’m the junior section coordinator and it’s amazing how the tradition of entereing the fair has been passed from generation to generation,” said Vowles.

She pointed out that the fair’s competitors are as young as three years of age and those children tend to continue to enter right into adulthood.

“My son Mitchell started when he was three, and he’s now 16 and still looks forward to the fair every year,” Vowles said.

“And loves baking and he’s also has a hand in adding to the fair by helping to introduce the very popular LEGO-creation category. The kids, especially the little kids, just love it.”

For Lewers, it’s that passing of traditions and enthusiasm from one generation to the next that keeps the fair strong.

“The community is going to change over time, but so long as we have people coming to the fair to share their skills with the next generation, a part of Sooke will always survive. Our roots are strong, and the fall fair is only going to get better.”

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