When throngs of residents and visitors descend upon Creston and District Community Complex this Friday and Saturday they won’t notice that it takes a little miracle of volunteers working behind the scenes to make the event happen. And that’s as they would have it — the show is intended to celebrate our rural and small town roots and the focus is on the displays, events and entertainment.
For 95 years, residents of this valley have found value in attending and participating in a fair that really does have something for everyone, young and not so young. It is an important reminder of the role that agriculture continues to play in our daily lives, a chance to get up close and personal with people who grow our food and cook, bake and preserve it.
This year there will be even more emphasis on the future of agriculture, as members of various 4-H groups show off their efforts. 4-H is 100 years old this year and the organization continues to help bring youth together, pledging to give head, heart, hands and health to their club, community and world, and to have fun while doing it.
It doesn’t take much of an effort to appreciate the wonders of a valley whose climate allows for crops as diverse as grains, grasses, fruit and vegetables. It is part of the reason that our early pioneers chose the area to settle in — abundant fresh water and forests provided immediate sustenance until land could be cleared and put into production. It was no coincidence that families with logging operations also had close ties to agriculture.
When we first came to Creston nearly 35 years ago we rented a house in Erickson, and in that first summer I took great joy in pulling a couple of ripe peaches from a tree in the front yard and heading off to work, where I would eat them at my desk. I grew up in the city and it seemed almost magical that something that perfect and delicious could be available at my fingertips.
When we attended our first Creston Valley Fall Fair the wonder that we were experiencing with the bountiful fruit crops extended to the diversity of interests we witnessed. From the vast selections of fresh and preserved fruits and vegetables to tables sagging under the weight of baked goods, from roosters crowing to cows chewing on hay, from kids’ crafts to fine quilts and woodwork, we were dazzled by the enthusiasm local residents had for showing off their particular passions.
We would come to spend our summers drying, canning and freezing fruit and our falls making gallon after gallon of apple juice. Family members from Alberta would take great joy in loading their vehicles with our contributions and we truly felt like we had arrived in some sort of heaven on Earth. I would spend hours in my workshop — once the house was built — making woodcrafts and, later, stained glass art, inspired by the pure energy of the people around us. Angela delved further into needlework and took up weaving — so many locals were around to advise and teach that it just seemed like the natural thing to do.
The rhythms of those early years were defined by local events. The Creston Valley Blossom Festival took place each May, and there were actually blooms on the fruit trees at the same time. More than three months later, the fall fair would signal the end of summer and the onset of fall, with shorter days, crisp, clear nights and always the abundance of harvests. Our sons grew up collecting windfall apples for juicing and they spent their winters drinking that juice, which we learned to freeze in plastic jugs. It was as good warmed up as it was cold, and many a mug was sipped in front of the woodstove in our log house.
This year’s fair, like the 94 that preceded it, is a chance to gather together as a community, catch up with old friends and see what they have been up to in recent months. Odds are that they have been growing and harvesting and creating, readying their entries for display, taking satisfaction and joy from living in a place of abundance. And we get to see the results of the hard work by 4-H members, a sure sign that our agricultural roots remain as strong as the values that come from raising and caring for the animals that will eventually feed us.
Many, many thanks to the good people who continue to believe that the Creston Valley Fall Fair is worthy of their volunteer efforts.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.