Ashley Jeffries represented the Wellesley Fall Fair at the Canadian National Exhibition on August 23, securing first-runner up in a competition of 78 ambassadors.
The 18-year-old wasn’t expecting to come away with second place, despite making it through the semi-final and final rounds.“I was very surprised, to be quite honest,” Jeffries said. “I didn’t think I was going to make the top seven. I was told by another contestant that I had a good walk and speaking voice. A few people came up to tell me that between semi-finals and finals, but I just thought those were people being nice. I didn’t really think anything of it.”
For her speech she talked about how her agricultural community has shaped her work ethic. She spoke about how her first job was mucking stalls at a barn and how it gave her the desire to push through adversity because sometimes you don’t want to be mucking stalls or throwing hay, but you keep pushing on.
“I decided this summer to go tree planting for seven weeks, and definitely the work that I’ve done at the barn that I worked at for three years, and also helping my neighbours’ farms really taught me a lot about pushing through when you thought you couldn’t continue anymore and that even though work isn’t glamorous it still needs to be done and someone’s got to do it,” Jeffries explained. “That really encouraged me to keep going when I didn’t think I could plant another tree in the ground because the bugs were swarming me and my boots were soaking wet and ice cold.”
She did tree planting five hours north of North Bay. The first camp was two hours outside of town with no cell phone reception and they only went into town once a week to do laundry.
The speech must have made an impression on the judges because she made it through to the finals where the top three were asked an impromptu question. Only seven contestants made it to semi finals to give their speech. Matt Garwood took top prize, the second male to do so in 40 years.
“Judges are always watching how you interact with other people on the fairgrounds, just to see what type of person you are, how outgoing you are,” Jeffries said. “The competition has a few major components, one would be your interview, that’s the first thing you do. Semi-finals, you walk on stage, you say your name and the name of your agricultural society and then you do your walk. And then finals involved you going on the stage again and you say a speech.”
They asked her what is the most important quality for an ambassador to have, and how had her ambassador experience at her local fair changed her as a person, in the interview portion.
Her impromptu question was if you had the opportunity to show the agricultural minister around the fairgrounds, what would you show him?
“My answer was that we would go around and talk to people because it’s Toronto, they don’t have a great understanding of agricultural knowledge,” Jeffries said. “So we would go around and get to answer questions, so that would help us to find out what people wanted to know, what people needed to know, what people did know, and what people didn’t know, so we could better identify the needs for educating people.”
At the CNE she took part in parades, activities, opening and closing ceremonies, and greeting and thanking different dignitaries. Next up she’ll be passing on her title to one lucky lady on Sept. 15 at the Wellesley Fall Fair. She’s also on the Wellesley Fair board and will be helping run the Parties and Prom: Past and Present Fashion Show in October.
“The ambassador program is a great way to get involved in your community,” Jeffries said. “It leads you to such great opportunities, great friends, great places to go. You learn so much about yourself, about agriculture, about the history of your community. And it really teaches you how to interact with other people.”
She’ll be attending Wilfrid Laurier University in September for her first year majoring in communications. She says the people she’s met and the connections she’s made through the ambassador program are the best parts about her experience, which is soon coming to an end. She recommends anyone who’s interested to get involved next year.
“It’s just a great program to network,” Jeffries said. “You meet so many amazing people that can be role models and also you get to learn what it feels like to be a role model.”