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Passing of Woodbridge Fall Fair patriarchs inspires 2021 Thanksgiving event

Volunteers take strength, inspiration from Ken Maynard and Ercole D'Amario, longtime volunteers at Woodbridge Fall Fair
Oct. 12, 2021
Jeremy Grimaldi

When Ken Maynard was born in 1934 the village of Woodbridge had about 1,500 residents, many houses had no indoor plumbing and council's most hotly debated item was whether or not to erect a street lamp.

Plenty has changed in the community since then, but one thing has remained constant: the Woodbridge Fall Fair.

From his first year volunteering in 1967 until 2021 there was perhaps no bigger proponent of the fair than Ken, who died at age 87 from COVID-19 on his birthday, March 27.

The fair's organizing committee didn’t just lose Ken, they also lost his partner in the giant pumpkin show, Ercole D’Amario, another long-serving member of the organizing committee, who passed away from cancer recently.

So, despite the fair taking its first hiatus due to COVID-19 in 2020, the fair is once again in full swing this weekend.

And organizers believe it’s fair to say that if a worldwide pandemic and the death of Ken and Ercole can’t stop the fair, little will.

"It’s an inspiration for us, our family and the other volunteers to continue to be involved,” said Jamie Maynard, who is one of 10 family members currently volunteering with the annual Thanksgiving fair.

Running since 1847, Maynard said it began as a venue for farmers to exchange ideas and show their wears, including vegetables, fruits and livestock.

“If you were a champion quilter everyone in the local area would see what it takes to be a better quilter,” he said. “If you raised the largest, healthiest cows, then you shared that knowledge. I wouldn’t say it was a matter of life and death, but everything around here was farmland, so everyone relied on growing food.”

Although many of the farmers have moved on, the fair has continued to grow championship produce. This year there was a national record set when Jim and Kelsey Bryson, of Ormstown, Que., grew the country’s largest ever pumpkin, weighing an amazing 2,006.5 pounds.
On top of the pumpkin contest the fair boasts a working blacksmith, butter churners, candlestick makers, a sheep shearing tent and a petting zoo, with goats, pigs and lamas.

As for the event’s popularity, Jaime said although this weekend’s first day was marred by rain, he expects it to be a success.

In 2019, the last year the event ran, the fair was the largest it’s been in the past 20 years.

Jaime said he believes it’s a mixture of things that makes the fair such a success.

“People want wholesome old fashioned fun,” he added. “A little bit of rural country life but close to the’s the only fair you can get to by subway.”

Travis Farrell, of Caledon, who also attended the fair Saturday for the weigh-in, managed to grow a 1,283-pound pumpkin.

He said the secret to growing gigantic pumpkins involves a number of factors including the right Atlantic Giant seeds and soil preparation, including pH levels.

“I think the Woodbridge fair has done a great job. A public event this large is not easy, especially in these times,” he said.

As for what he’s going to do with the giant pumpkin now, he hopes to donate it to a local fire hall.

For anyone interested in attending you can visit the fair website.

It takes place Thanksgiving Sunday and Monday at Woodbridge Fairgrounds at 100 Porter Rd., and runs from 11 to 6 or 7 p.m. depending on the day.