Submitted by Amber Coderre, Bench Show coordinator
The Irvine & District Agricultural Society met on June 15 to discuss the feasibility of hosting the annual Wanda Woodward Memorial Bench Show & Commercial Displays that were previously scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 5 and 6. The Bench Show that is normally held during the annual 20-mile Post Days is part of a much anticipated weekend of family fun for the whole town and agricultural community. After reviewing the stages of reopening recommended by the Alberta Government, and Alberta Health Services; as well as considering the contact rich nature of the Bench Show event itself, the Society voted to cancel the Bench Show for the 2020 season.
The cancellation is disappointing, as many in town look forward to the fall exhibition of local gardening, baking, preserving, and art. However, the Ag Society felt that the safety of our neighbours, friends and family within our community was the most important priority.
As a community group focused on agriculture and small town vibrancy, the Irvine & District Ag Society felt that cancelling this seasons events will provide an opportunity for the planning committee to review the processes of the Bench Show and create changes for the future that will allow the traditional exhibition to stay true to its historical roots while adapting to changes in how our communities meet.
Today, interest in the skills such as baking bread, saving seeds, hand knitting, and preserving food to name just a few are experiencing renewed interest in younger generations. Therefore exhibits such as the traditional Bench Show that highlight and celebrate the best of these skills in our neighbors, and friends are more important than ever.
At one time most rural communities in Alberta celebrated a year of harvest and skill with an exhibition like the Bench Show. Sadly, Irvine is one of only a handful of small towns in Alberta left who host a traditional skill exhibit of this kind.
The 2021 season will be the 40th anniversary of this event! It is the Ag Society’s hope that with the extra year of planning, the 40th annual Bench Show in September of 2021 will be the best year yet! We are looking forward to it, and hope the community is too.