FLEETWOOD — Life was good Saturday afternoon at the fair that Rick built.
On stage, a magician played to a large and enthusiastic group of kids and parents. To the west, a giant chessboard and another swarm of youngsters.
Cutting through the middle, a few dozen tents were filled with vendors selling their wares.
Everywhere there was something to do.
The occasion was the 18th annual rendition of the Fleetwood Festival, and it’s a scene that would have made Rick Hart happy.
Known alternately as the “Mayor of Fleetwood” and “Mr. Fleetwood,” and just a few months ago named as Surrey’s 2016 “Good Citizen of the Year,” Hart was the longtime president of the Fleetwood Community Association and the founder of the festival.
Sadly, Hart died in July, not long after he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was 62.
On Saturday morning, just as the festival began, he was rightfully honoured for his many civic contributions.
At the podium, speaker after speaker waxed poetic about the man who for so many years protected and watched over his beloved Fleetwood.
The final speaker, following Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, was Hart’s friend and colleague Deb Hughes, who choked back tears during much of her time at the mic.
“It all started for me 22 years ago, when I got a flyer at my door about development,” she said later. “I met Rick at that point, and together with Bernard (Chadillon) and (another man named) John, we started the East Fleetwood Homeowners Association. We were just ordinary citizens who were interested in mega house development coming to the Fleetwood area.
“Rick and the guys did a lot of presentations at city hall… they got to know city hall. Rick’s attitude was ‘You come in with the facts, they can’t argue with the facts, and they have to listen.’ That’s always been his mantra.”
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The EFHA disbanded in 1995, its members joining the Fleetwood Community Association, which was founded in 1923.
“And this whole festival started with the 1998 75th anniversary of the Fleetwood Community Association,” Hughes said. “We felt it was a big thing to do. Seventy-five years of an association being around – somebody taking care of the heritage that started in 1923 – was a big deal.”
Hughes gestured toward the community centre, about 100 metres away, and continued. “It started right there in that little vestibule…right at the front there. We had six tables. And that’s how the first festival was.
“Rick and Tom Sherwood and Ralph Turnbull – they were the ones who went out to the community and talked to businesses and said, ‘Hey, this is going to be good for you. How do we get you guys all working together?’ And boy, the community jumped on board really fast.”
Hepner said so many things in Fleetwood have the “footprint and the handprint and the hugs” of Rick Hart.
“Everything around here is Rick Hart’s for the past 18 years. Rick has a stamp on all of this.”