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For one Cobble Hill family, fall fair is in the blood

Aug 24 2012
Margaret Baird, 92, has been involved with the Cobble Hill Fair for 60 years. 

Margaret Baird, 92, has been involved with the Cobble Hill Fair for 60 years.

Photograph by: Lexi Bainas , Cowichan Valley Citizen

Margaret Baird plans to be at the Cobble Hill fair on Saturday, just like she's been for the previous 59 years.

At 92, Margaret's days of fixing sit-down lunches for 200 people at the fairgrounds may be over, but she wouldn't miss the one-day fair for the world.

"A whole community puts themselves into it," Margaret said this week. "If they don't volunteer, they come out and support it."

For Margaret, the annual fall fair - now in its 103rd year - is a family affair.

Her 62-year-old son, George Baird, is the president of the Shawnigan-Cobble Hill Farmers' Institute and Agricultural Society, which organizes the event. Five generations of the family have kept the Cobble Hill fair a vibrant and fun event - right down to George's grandchildren.

Like them, George started attending the fair at a young age. He spent 10 years in 4-H, and showed his first calf, a Jersey, at the fair. He went on to be a 4-H leader for 15 years and remains a strong supporter of the movement.

He recently met a former 4-H member who is now a doctor.

"She said, 'If you ever run into trouble, George, I work in the ER,' " he said. "Those are the kinds of kids who come back. They're all good kids."

Cobble Hill may seem an unlikely spot for an annual agricultural fair to endure for 103 years.

But the unincorporated area north of the Malahat and south of Cowichan Bay has a strong agricultural base and a tradition of volunteerism. The fair, held the fourth Saturday of August, allows both of these community characteristics to take centre stage.

"People like the one-day event," George said. "There are so many things in such a little area. We just ask for help and people come out and the job gets done."

Close to 8,000 people attended the fair's centenary celebrations in 2009. Last year, almost 4,500 toured the vintage tractor displays, snacked on hotdogs and watched youth in the 4-H clubs to show off coiffed calves, sheep and other livestock.

Although Margaret recently moved from the farm her parents owned to an assisted-living residence in Duncan, she plans to attend the fair's opening, which will include an appearance by B.C. Agriculture Minister Don McRae.

McRae called Margaret "a walking example of the spirit of agriculture in British Columbia, and how farming and foods bring people together."

"She embodies the sense of community shared by the thousands of British Columbians who volunteer their time at local fairs," McRae said this week.

"Margaret deserves our heartfelt thanks for the time and energy she has given to strengthen agriculture, the Cobble Hill fair and the community itself."

This year's fair will pay tribute to the 175th anniversary of John Deere, manufacturer of tractors and other farm machinery. The family event features a pancake breakfast hosted by the Rotary Club, canning and baking displays and sheep dog and duck-driving demonstrations.

The fair begins at 9: 30 a.m. with a parade, which will be followed by the official opening.

To get to the fair from the south, take the Trans-Canada Highway to Hutchinson Road and follow the signs. From Duncan, drive south and turn right at the Cobble Hill Road light, opposite Valleyview Centre, and follow the signs.

Fisher Road will be closed during the fair.

smcculloch@timescolonist.com

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