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Erin Agricultural Society: Creating awareness and foster education about agriculture, farming and country life

Ah, the wonderful sights and sounds of the Erin Fall Fair — the excitement of the midway rides and games, the thunderous engines of the tractor and truck pulls, the horses, cattle, sheep, goats and so many more animals to learn about. All this and so much more, which Erinites enjoy year after year on Thanksgiving weekend, would not happen without the Erin Agricultural Society (EAS). Their mission? Create awareness and foster education about agriculture, farming and country life.
 
Established in 1850, this well-oiled machine amazes both local and out-of-town visitors, who often scratch their heads wondering how a relatively small town like Erin can put together such an impressively elaborate agricultural showcase, which has been dubbed the “Preview to the Royal” (Toronto’s Royal Agricultural Winter Fair). I recently sat down with EAS secretary and longtime volunteer Eileen Brown to discover their special sauce.
 
Eileen states: “It all wouldn’t be possible without the contributions from countless dedicated volunteers — over 250 — local service clubs and 325 partners, including many local businesses. A core group of 18 directors on the main board is responsible for ensuring everything runs smoothly, along with committee heads, life members and other volunteers. The EAS is like one big, happy family. Indeed, volunteers’ relatives often join in the Thanksgiving weekend fun."
 
I should mention that as official Erin Fall Fair photographer over the past several years, I soon discovered that Eileen is indispensable during the Fair; her intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of the entire enterprise is unparalleled. Her name is frequently heard on the directors’ radio sets: “Eileen, come in please … where can I find this, that or the other thing?” Her expertise comes in part from over 37 years with the EAS, holding various executive positions. In 2005, she became the first female president of the main board. When the need arose for a secretary in 2009, Eileen was the obvious choice for the position, which she has held ever since.
 
One monumental challenge occurred during Eileen’s tenure as Homecraft president in February 1994, when the exhibit hall burned to the ground. Eileen recalls: “The months that followed involved a lot of scrambling and fundraising. The executive worked day and night to make sure the fair still came to life that year.” Some exhibits were temporarily hosted at nearby locations, but thanks to the tireless efforts from the EAS and an outpouring of community support, the main hall was rebuilt by the following year.
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