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DAS looking for crowd growth in 2017

Emily Distefano, The Carman Valley Leader

The Dufferin Agricultural Society is looking for ways to increase traffic and create long-term sustainability for the annual Carman Country Fair. (FILE/THE VALLEY LEADER)

The Dufferin Agricultural Society is looking for ways to increase traffic and create long-term sustainability for the annual Carman Country Fair. (FILE/THE VALLEY LEADER)

The Dufferin Agricultural Society has a new president and a fresh vision for the future of the Carman Country Fair.

Local farmer John Goff has taken on the mantle of president, and he’s excited to share the organization’s vision for a sustainable future.

The DAS, with the addition of some new members to its ranks, has a reinvigorated feel to it this year.

“We’ve got a new energy and we need everyone in the community’s support to make this a growing, prosperous event that our community deserves,” said Goff.

The DAS has been actively looking for ways to increase attendance for the past few summers, trying a Farmers’ Challenge in 2015 and hosting the first Manitoba Lumberjack Championships in 2016.

The group also worked to obtain a three-year contract with the provincial Percheron horse show, which will bring 45 heavy horses to the DAS grounds this year.

But the organization still lost money last year.

Goff said he saw a need to “have a strong, financially stable DAS that was going to strive to become a little bit more than just the Carman Fair, that was going to promote agriculture in the community and build the wonderful assets that we have there.”

“The Carman Fair has a long-running history,” he said. “There’s been some great people involved through the years. And it’s the one opportunity that we have to showcase agriculture in our town. And as the number of farms gets smaller and there’s not a farm site on every quarter section, we don’t really have those opportunities like we used to, to advertise agriculture and make people aware of the little things about where their food comes from.

This year the group has a few different plans to draw more people to the event.

First of all, Goff said they “need to do a lot better job of promoting ourselves and advertising ourselves.” So the DAS now has a new committee committed to promotion, chaired by Trish Middleton.

New initiatives

And then they need to give that committee some exciting new initiatives to promote. Right now, they’re looking at offering free, locally-grown French fries, a new truck pull for charity and extra space for families to stay throughout the Fair weekend.

“All the potato farmers in Carman have gotten together and we’re going to do free fries right through the whole fair,” Goff said.

The charity event will run during the main day of the fair, at the same time as the demo derby.

“It’s a potato and grain truck pull for mental health,” said Goff. “Mental health has really affected our community, not just in the past couple years but in the past decades and a lot of people feel very strongly about it.

The pull will be performed by teams of ten from the community and all sponsorship money will go toward a mental health charity to be determined.

“Details on that will follow,” Goff said. “Warren McCutcheon and Tyler Russell have agreed to run that for us.”

And for families, the DAS plans to do some temporary campground development during the fair weekend.

“We’re going to expand the campgrounds so we can draw families here. In the past there was nowhere for families to camp when they want to come to the Carman Fair, so that’s always been an obstacle for us,” said Goff.

Community outreach

The general idea, he said, is to do things that aren’t going to cost a lot of money to put on, but that are really going to draw the community closer together.

He said they also hope to catch the interest of those who may not have been reached before.

“We want to reach out across the province,” he said. “We want to reach out to Winkler and Morden . We want to reach out to Winnipeg and everywhere else.”

And when he says he’d like the DAS to grow to encompass “more than just the Carman Fair,” Goff means making sure the grounds are put to good use the rest of the year as well.

“I…envision that the DAS facility itself, all the agricultural barns and that whole site would get developed a little more and be used more than just that three days a year,” he said.

Once the fair itself is financially stable, Goff said, “the sky is really the limit for what we can do.”