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Our annual country fair anything but hokey
My husband and I lived in the valley for two years before we looked up from nesting with babies to notice the Cowichan Exhibition.
We had our first glimpse into the enormousness of it when Alison Irwin, a neighbour who has participated in the exhibition for more than 50 years, delivered to us the 32-page catalogue listing too many exhibition event classes to count.
We shared the catalogue with friends who, like us, had yet to experience the wonder that is the valley’s largest fair. We laughed together at some of the hokey-yet-charming classes, like the ducttape competition, or Home Tweet Home, a decorated article for the home using birds (not living) as a theme.
The Cake, Made By A Man class was the crowd favourite. The gents brainstormed a few ideas: a steak cake, a carburetor cake, and a phallic-shaped cake, thus reminding us why they are in a class of their own.
We felt it was our community duty to enter a few classes. When we told others we were participating in the country fair, we smirked as though we were too cool for such old-fashioned gaiety.
I entered the Cookies, Chocolate Chip class. When I became a parent, I decided the chocolate-chip cookie was an important maternal tool to lure neighbourhood children into my home. I believed a good cookie is like a welcoming hug and would establish me as a mom kids can trust.
My friend Shevaun shared with me her Auntie Joanie’s notoriously good cookie recipe. I then spent Malcolm Gladwell’s prescribed 10,000 hours — or in this case I baked 10,000 cookies — to commit it to memory. The children loved them, and the Cowichan Exhibition offered me a chance to see if my cookies were best over all.
I realized how important winning was to me when I was nervous on competition day. I thought, unreasonably, winning might prove I was a good mother when it felt like I was failing daily in that capacity.
I may not be able to organize a closet or remember to notice how amazing my kids are, but making the best chocolate-chip cookies might show I wasn’t completely unfit for the job.
When I walked into the huge Mellor Hall to drop off my six freshly baked and carefully selected cookies, the place was packed full with people placing on the rows of tables their flowers, honey, vegetables—among the other countless passion projects.
The collective energy to research, prepare, practice, and produce all those exhibition entries blew my mind. This was anything but hokey. I was humbled by the awesome display of what makes the Cowichan Valley so rich.
To win a first-place blue ribbon in that hall is something to be proud of, which, if you spend five minutes with me, you’ll know I am.
I won that year, and when I entered and won the next year it had nothing to do with proving my maternal abilities and everything to do with retaining my title in a field of exceptional talent.
I’m going for the three-peat this year and will retire, like basketball star Michael Jordan, at the height of my game. I’m already thinking about which classes to enter next year because what we thought was an outdated custom—the country fair — is now the event our family looks forward to most every year.
Maeve Maguire is a technical writer who lives and works in Maple Bay and writes monthly in the News Leader Pictorial. Visit her blog www.cowichandale.com, or email her at email@example.com.