IPM 2017 will be remembered for perseverance says Bishop - Sept. 28, 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Reflecting on the week that was and the 2017 International Plowing Match (IPM) in Walton, Chair Jacquie Bishop says it’s the people and the community spirit that will stay with her for years to come.
“I think we accomplished what our vision was, which was to host an educational and entertaining event,” Bishop said in a Monday morning interview with The Citizen. “I think we highlighted what this county is all about and who we are.”
Admittedly, the IPM didn’t kick off the way Bishop and her team had envisioned it, with a reported inch and a half of rain falling on the site in just a few hours on Tuesday, Sept. 19, the first day of the match.
The parade, which traditionally kicks off every IPM, had to be cancelled, with just a few vehicles making their way through the grounds. The vehicles that did participate in the parade included those of the major Ontario political parties and the host families, who braved the rain on a flat bed truck during the downpour.
Bishop said that those provincial parties make sure to mark the IPM on their calendars every year, so it was really important to members that they parade through Tented City, no matter the conditions.
Once the truncated parade was completed safely and the opening ceremonies were in the books, Bishop said conversation turned to what to do next with a site that was in wet, muddy and hazardous shape as a result of the rain.
The conversation began with just Bishop and Secretary Lynne Godkin and then expanded to between 25 and 30 committee members standing in a circle discussing their options. Bishop said everyone there knew they needed to shut the match down for at least a day, but no one wanted to be the one to say it.
“We knew the decision was going to affect thousands and thousands of people, so it was hard to make that call,” Bishop said.
It was when conversation turned to being stewards of the land and preserving the rich agricultural soil at host farmer Jack Ryan’s farm that the committee knew what they needed to do. Not only were they making decisions for the IPM and the thousands planning to attend, but they were also holding the fate of a family’s farm in their hands.
Once the decision was made to close the IPM for Wednesday, Sept. 20, she said it turned out to be the best decision for the match, as crews immediately went to work repairing the site and making it safe for people on Thursday.
Immediately after making the decision, Bishop received a call from Huron County Warden Jim Ginn, who applauded the move, but said he was disappointed it had come to this. He committed any county resources that were needed to get the site ready for Thursday.
That offer wasn’t the only one, however. Bishop said that on Tuesday, representatives from some Brussels businesses were already making trips to and from the village with wood shavings to be applied to the site.
Where the community really stepped up to the plate, Bishop said, was when individual farmers and countless local businesses began showing up with supplies and volunteering their services and equipment. It was that community spirit and willingness to come forward and pull together to ensure the event would be a success, despite its challenges, that will stick with Bishop forever, she said.
“That community support to help us get back on track was just so rewarding to see,” Bishop said.
Once the match was again open for business, Bishop said things were exactly as she and her committee had hoped they would be.
While there had been some discussion about potentially extending the match to include programming on Sunday, Sept. 22, Bishop said it simply wasn’t possible, although it would have gone a long way to filling the hole left by Wednesday’s cancellation.
Final attendance figures were not available at press time, but Bishop says that from a community standpoint, she feels the match was a rousing success.
The legacy that will stay with her, however, was the community spirit and the work of her committee members and volunteers who adapted to the tasks as they came up and weather in Huron County went from one extreme to the other.
While Tuesday and Wednesday were full of using a grader to scrape mud from the site and spreading wood shavings and corn stalks throughout the grounds, the committee’s jobs changed on a daily basis, ranging from mud management and damage control on Tuesday and Wednesday to handing out bottles of water in the extreme heat and dust control by Saturday.
The ability of volunteers to roll with the punches and do what needed to be done over the course of the week, and with clean-up into this week, is something she will always remember.