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by Isabel Mosseler

Get your volunteer gear ready, because the 2019 International Plowing Match & Rural Expo (IPM) needs you, and it’s coming fast! That’s the predominant message that Catherine Levac-Lafond, Lead Coordinator for the event, wanted to get out at the official opening of her new office in Verner on Wednesday, January 17.

Around 30 people were on hand to launch what will be a busy two years of planning, preparation and coordination, with hundreds of volunteers and thousands of details to manage as West Nipissing gets set to host one of the premier agricultural events in the world, from Sept. 17 to 21, 2019. Members of the organizing committee, officials from the Ontario Plowmen’s Association (OPA) and the public cheered excitedly as the ribbon was cut and the work got underway.

Levac-Lafond, who grew up in the area and lives in Verner, didn’t contain her enthusiasm. “It’s great to be able to work in the community again for an organization that’s so close to my heart. (…) I’ve always been fascinated by technologies and the advancements we have, and the strong spirit our farmers have, how tenacious they are,” said the former director of CANO.

“The main focus, because we have so many subcommittees for the event and different branches, is to make sure everything is followed according to the timeline we put together. We will have more staff eventually in the office. I’m the coordinator, but we do have an executive committee who play a big role, and all the subcommittee chairs.” In total, they’ll need about 1,000 volunteers for the five-day event, which is expected to attract over 80,000 people to the area, with hundreds of exhibitors on a 1,000-acre site, an RV campground with 1,200 serviced lots, plowing competitions, agricultural exhibits, live entertainment and much more.

“Volunteers! We need people! There are 20-30 sub-committees. We have so many positions. The volunteer application form is to be distributed in the community and also on our website once it’s put up,” she urged.

While it’s a lot to manage, Levac-Lafond said they have over 100 years of experience to draw on, and an established routine to follow, with strong support from the OPA as this is their 102nd event. “We’re not reinventing the wheel, it’s something that’s done over and over, but we’re going to put our own special touch from the area, and because it’s only the second time it is in the north, we’re going to show how rich the area is in terms of agriculture,” she noted.

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Just two short years to prepare world-class event in Verner

The mood was jubilant as the ribbon was cut to open the office of the 2019 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo, last week in Verner. Shown are (left to right, front) WN Councillor Guilles Tessier, Cathy Lasby, Executive Director of Ontario Plowmen’s Association, Sheila Marshall, 2nd Vice President of OPA, Neil Fox, chair of IPM 2019 Executive Committee, Don Priest, President OPA, Joanne Savage, West Nipissing Mayor, (back) Claude Bouffard, French River Mayor, Steve Salonin, Markstay-Warren Mayor, Jean Beauchemin, Daniel Michel, Tom Lambert and Jovette Morin, IPM 2019 executive committee members, Catherine Levac-Lafond, IPM 2019 Lead Coordinator, and Amy Schoppmann, executive committee member.