When Chatham-Kent plays host to the 2018 International Plowing Match & Rural Expo, it could bring in more than 100,000 visitors for five days of fun and education.
The agricultural event takes years of planning, and behind the event are numerous volunteers, some of whom are already hard at work, with even more required as the opening date draws closer.
About 80 of those volunteers squeezed into a meeting room at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre on Tuesday where they were provided with an update on preparations and the need to recruit even more volunteers.
Administration coordinator Rob Sterling, whose responsibilities include the recruitment of volunteers, said the IPM will provide an opportunity to showcase Chatham-Kent not only to the rest of Ontario, but also to visiting Americans.
Always held during the third week of September, the Chatham-Kent event will run from Tuesday, Sept. 18 to Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. It will be held just east of Pain Court, temporarily transforming the quiet community into a bustling city.
Highlights include the tented city featuring displays and vendors, as well as an RV park with 1,500 sites serviced with hydro and water.
Plowing competitions are at the heart of the event, which features several different classes, including horses.
“There's quite a range of competitors who come,” said Sterling.
Other popular events include the crowning of the Queen of the Furrow, which usually attracts about 30 competitors, drawn from local plowing matches across the province.
The winner of the competition from the IPM then spends the next year as an ambassador, promoting the match for the following year.
Entertainment plays a huge role, said Sterling, usually including competitions for rodeo and lumberjacks, square-dancing tractors and live music on several stages.
The IPM is also an opportunity to educate the non-farming public about farming and rural life, and thousands of school children will take field trips to the event. “We want to make that (education) a highlight of the event,” said Sterling.
Darrin Canniff, a Chatham-Kent municipal councillor, is co-chair of the IPM, along with fellow councillor Leon Leclair. Canniff gives credit to Rob Sterling and his father Carl, as being the driving force behind Chatham-Kent’s successful bid for the plowing match, an event held only twice in the community – in 1919 and again in 1979 – which was considered an overwhelming success.
“We want to host an awe-inspiring world-class event,” said Canniff, who added, “We want it to be fun for those who come and we want it to be fun for the volunteers.”