Although their last show was another big success, there’s some disturbing undercurrents being experienced by the Rimbey Horticultural Society that could ultimately lead to the end of the annual show and the entire society after a history that stretches way back to its inception in 1922.
According to two members of the Society, most of the group is getting up there in age and they desperately need some younger gardening enthusiasts to step into the breech to ensure that the shows continue for many years to come.
“We’re running short of members and people who are able to help prepare for the show,” said longtime member Mary Burrows who has held many positions with the organization including past president.
“We get a lot of help on the days of the show, but it’s preparing for it and getting the program ready, planning the classes, securing judges and all the usual things we have to do before a show,” she added. “But we’re getting older in years and we need some younger members – we’ll take some older members who are interested, but we need some help.”
As for how she accounts for the lack of younger members joining the organization, Burrows pointed to the shifting demographics and societal changes that have resulted in far more choices for recreational opportunities and/or quality family time.
“I think it’s probably that a lot of the younger mothers are working. Years ago there were a lot of stay-at-home moms at that time and we were a big farming community,” she said. “But now we find that with the younger people, two members of the family are working. We were having our meeting in the mornings but I thought afterwards that we should have our meetings in the evening when some of the younger mothers could probably attend.”
Burrows added that the situation is not unique to Rimbey and horticultural societies all over the province are experiencing the same trend.
“I was on the Board for 18 years with the Alberta Horticultural Society and I talked to one of the members last week and they said they’re having the same problem, so it’s not just us,” she said. “But I wouldn’t want to see it die for the sake of waking people up and saying we need help.”
She added that while the bulk of the organization’s activities are held in the summer months, they do not hold any meetings during the winter months of December, January and February and do not begin planning or meeting until the spring, resulting in a rather light commitment from members.
Concurring on the situation is vice-president Geri Lyons who said there are simply too many alternatives to gardening and crafting for younger families in this day and age.
“The younger people are too active with other things. They want to go quading, fishing or camping,” Lyons said. “There’s also the activities that children are in like hockey and other sports – everybody is busy and it’s a priority. The tradition of the family garden, doing crafts with the family, it’s faded away.”
Lyons added that there is far more to the Society than planting and picking flowers and that the group works very hard to attract younger people – including children, by offering them a chance to display their arts, crafts and a number of other skills, including offering cash and other incentives.
“We try to incorporate numerous crafts for all ages. We have colouring contests for five and six year olds and writing contests so that younger grades can enter a submission of their handwriting and printing,” she said. “We try to promote not just the fun stuff, but needed values too. They all get ribbons, they all win a dollar – the real smaller crafts, the colouring and the writing – they all get a loonie; but it’s fun and they like it.”
Both members agreed that the situation confronting the organization is a reflection of society and changing times – an example of which lies in the fact that for generations of early pioneers to the west, a large family garden was almost critical to their survival but as times have changed, vegetables and fresh produce are now as close as the local grocery store or farmers market as opposed to toiling in a garden of their own.
“That’s very true,” she said. “A lot of people do not grow their own garden, they go to our wonderful farmers markets and purchase their fresh produce, baked goods and candy. They can all be bought there. There’s no work to it and it’s always priced reasonably so there you go.”
As for this year’s show which was held last Saturday at the Rimbey Seniors Drop-In Centre, Burrows said she was very pleased with both the number of spectators and the number of garden-related entries in light of some fearsome weather that has hit the area throughout the summer.
“I was very happy with the turnout this year and considering that we had two hailstorms in eight days, I thought we had a really wonderful show of horticulture,” she said. “Photography entries were down quite a bit this year which surprised me but everything else in the show was about usual. But it was a miracle that we got the amount of flowers that we did because most of the growers in this area were effected by the weather.”
Since its incorporation in 1922, the Rimbey Horticultural Society has hosted a fair or show in one form or another every year with the exception of three all of which were during the Second World War.
If anyone is interested in joining the Society or would like more information, they are encouraged to contact either Geri Lyons at 843-3377, or Mary Burrows at 843-2076.