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Wellesley council reconsidering grant for the Wellesley North Easthope Fall Fair

Supporters of the annual Wellesley North Easthope Fall Fair say a $1,550 donation from Wellesley Township would be impossible to replace, and are hopeful council will reconsider previous discussions to not provide it an annual grant.

Three residents spoke on behalf of the fair on Tuesday night, asking council to consider the benefits of the event to the community, businesses, and especially the hundreds of children who attend the dairy education program. Other residents submitted letters in support of the fair.

Peter Draper explained the fall fair’s been an important event in his family for several decades as his family farmed in North Easthope through the ‘70s and the ‘80s. When they moved to St. Clements they saw the impact of the fair on their children.

“As we saw through our children later in life the fair is an exciting and must attend event,” Peter said.

His daughter, Sally, attended every fair she could and eventually competed in the annual ambassador competition twice, earning the title for the 2015-16 year.

“These experiences have influenced Sally to get involved in other ways that matter in life, those being helping her community and those around her,” Peter said.

He noted the Small Fairs Benefits Study conducted by the Enigma Research Corporation found the average small fair in Canada has an impact of $750,000 on the local economy. Since the Wellesley iteration is on the smaller end of the scale, if it provided only 10 per cent of that average, that would still be a $75,000 impact on the township.

But more so than the financial aspect, it’s about the educational factor for children and adults alike when it comes to farming.

“I see the fair as playing a critical role as its contribution to the community through exposure and education on rural life and food production,” Peter said.

Peter Brennan, past president and current director of the fair, notes the fair’s volunteer organizers will drive all over the township and beyond picking up donations of as small as $20 from businesses, to ensure the fair continues.

“Our fundraising list has 150 businesses that support us, they do it because it’s a benefit to them,” Brennan said.

The annual $1,550 donation from Wellesley Township represents 4.6 per cent of the fair’s budget, which is just 0.02 per cent of the township budget, equal to 14 cents for each of the people in the township.

“The impact of your decision is an important one; $1,550 is very significant. We can’t replace that,” Brennan said.

Sally Draper, former fall fair ambassador, drove from Guelph where she’s attending post-secondary school, to express her support for the fair and for the township to continue to support it. She said she’s always proud to tell people she meets about where she’s from, and she has fond memories of attending the fair since she was a child.

“Through environmental, social and monetary challenges, our fair has persisted for 164 years. I believe this speaks to our resilience as a community as a whole,” Sally said.

The fair has been renamed as the Wellesley Township Fall Fair this year from its former name of the Wellesley North Easthope Fall Fair. It will be held Sept. 12-13.

Township staff will prepare a report regarding if they will support the fair this year, and if so, what that monetary amount will be. They will present the report at the May 9 meeting.

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