Parade of Lights 2019
Parade de lumières
Les Filles d’Isabelle à Sturgeon Falls : 75 ans d’Unité, Amitié, Charité
Shop Local Guide 2019
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CIL 2019 IPM
70e anniversaire du Club Richelieu de Sturgeon Falls
Fall and Winter Driving and Adventure Guide
Warm and Cozy 2019
by Brad Aubin
For over two years, the 2019 IPM board boasted that it would be “the best plowing match in the history of mankind”, and according to board chair Neil Fox, they accomplished just that. Verner swelled in size as a “tented village” nearly as big as the real village popped up along Hwy 64, and nearly 1000 trailers rolled into a temporary RV park with a stage for nightly entertainment. What followed was five days packed with activities, not just plowing competitions in the fields but rodeos, tractor and horse pulls, lumberjack shows, musical acts, educational and cultural exhibits, helicopter rides and so much more. It was ‘the event of the decade’ for West Nipissing – just the second time in 102 years that the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo had been held in Northern Ontario. Indeed, the event was so large that it was difficult to experience it all in one day. And that was part of the plan.
“One of our big objectives was ‘how do we communicate scale?’ A lot of people had never been to a plowing match before, were clueless in regards to just how big it is. How big a thousand acres are, how many trailers are a thousand trailers. It’s really hard to compare it to other events. This was world class, and the scale was enormous with a lot of moving parts and a lot of people responsible for very crucial things,” describes Fox.
After putting in more than two years of planning and hard work, he took the time to savour the event even while continuing his duties as chair. “I enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time with my family, my children as well as doing day-to-day things such as helping out with media requests, at the gates, directing traffic and everything in between... I enjoyed every minute of it because I could see people there were doing the same thing. It was a very humbling experience.”
Running from Sept. 17 to 21, the IPM benefited from perfect weather, with rain holding off until the morning after the closing ceremony.
The 5-day event kicked off with a giant parade that drove right though the heart of Verner on Principale Street, before veering off onto Hwy 64 and the IPM grounds on the lands of host farmer Daniel Olivier. It was a first in the 102-year history of the IPM that the opening parade went through the town first, and for Fox it was the perfect way to kick off the festivities.
“I remember the nerves... the build-up that had been coming for several months and it was finally here. When that parade started to take off, I just remember the unreal feeling. It was fantastic; it was finally here… in downtown Verner kicking off a world-class event! We had such great positive feedback about the parade,” recounts Fox. Among those in the procession were Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Official Opposition leader Andrea Horwath, WN Mayor Joanne Savage and many other dignitaries who were also part of the opening ceremony. Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh attended on the Wednesday, while both Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré and Timiskaming-Cochrane MPP John Vanthof were present several days.
Fox is particularly thrilled at the economic boost provided to local exhibitors. “A lot of companies from the private sector chose to get on board and sponsor, or become an exhibitor, and they benefited from the exposure. It was an opportunity to increase their sales and that’s a highlight for me; that’s economic development 101: to provide opportunity to the private sector to leverage.”
He adds that “other than seeing the private sector bloom, (…) I thought it was fantastic to have so many different members of the community as well as from out of town at the RV park. It was a great social aspect of the event where people can socialize (…). It’s a really neat opportunity for people to get together with their family under unique circumstances.”
Fox was also impressed with the educational part of the IPM, especially seeing thousands of students visiting the site during the week, thanks to a $34,000 contribution from the Caisse Alliance. “Seeing all those school kids was fantastic. We received an envelope full of handmade letters from Carolyn Restoule’s class from La Resurrection, with hand drawn tractors and scarecrows giving a big thank you. It was very touching.” Kids from six different school boards, from West Nipissing, North Bay and Sudbury, were bused in for the event.