NORTH BAY - Over 80,000 people are expected to visit the community of West Nipissing in under two weeks to take part in the 2019 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo (IPM), which begins Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Friday was Media Day ahead of the big event and there were many dignitaries, board members and volunteers on hand to relay all the work that has gone into preparing for the festival.
Chair of the 2019 IPM Neil Fox says, “One of the highlights and one of the things I wanted to focus on today was about the team of volunteers and the fact that we had built a not for profit corporation. What essentially happens is, there are different volunteers with different areas of responsibilities and each of them chased specific objectives to make this happen. Countless volunteers and collectively a team of over a thousand people have come together to make this happen.”
The sheer size of the event is hard to put into words and it is something you have to see with your own eyes to appreciate just how much space is needed to make this happen.
In one area will be an RV Park that holds 1,200 serviced RV’s. The “Tent City” will house 600 vendors and exhibitors from all over North America. Plus there is the space needed for a rodeo, a stage for live music all week long, plus an area big enough for the plowing competitions. Makeshift streets had to be designed and hydro lines had to be installed in what was basically an enormous plot of farmland owned by Daniel Olivier.
“Having an event like this in northern Ontario is not something I ever envisioned would happen,” he says.
“At the end of the day we are very happy with what has taken place so far and we feel like this event could balloon up to 100,000 people based on the fact it’s between two major cities like North Bay and Sudbury.”
The IPM received a funding boost on Friday afternoon as Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli announced an extra $240,000 for two projects that support the IPM. Most of that is directed towards all the infrastructure work that needed to be done while $15,000 is geared towards marking related costs.
“This is a great opportunity to showcase Ontario’s agriculture, especially northern Ontario’s agriculture to the world,” Fedeli says.
“Our agriculture in the north is so critical, it’s important for jobs, job creation and exporting. Whether it’s maple syrup or something that is grown in the ground, if it’s made up here, it can be available for local, and provincial consumption and can be exported as well,” he says.
The IPM has the potential to inject West Nipissing with a hefty payday.
Richard Vivian is one of the spokespeople for the event and he says the economic impact of this kind of event is typically in the $20-million plus range.
He says, “We don’t know exactly what numbers to expect but traditionally we see 80,000 people come through in the five days. It is a key event for people in the agricultural industry, but also for people who either just want something fun to do for the day, or for those who want the educational aspect of it all, those who don’t know how agriculture affects their every day lives, they will learn those things at the IPM.”
The educational aspect of this event was something that was endorsed by many of the individuals in attendance at the Media Day event. Vivian says knowledge of this industry is crucial for there to be continued growth. He says, “People should know where their food comes from and how they can support that. Agriculture has been an important part of this country from as far back as the history of this country goes. It’s not only key to employment and an economic standpoint but, we all have to eat. So if this doesn’t continue, who knows where we will be getting things from? We always need another generation coming forward.”
It was heavily encouraged that this event be catered to families for those reasons. One of the goals of this festival is to show today’s youth the benefits of the agriculture sector and that’s why Saturday is being labelled as BMO Kids day which provides free admission for children under 16 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. which includes a pancake breakfast and free shows and activities.
Another way youth are heavily involved in the promotion of this event is through the crowning of the Queen of the Furrow. Last years winner Derika Nauta says there is a process to getting this title. “You actually have to plow a piece of land, do an interview, say a speech, and the top five also get asked impromptu questions.”
The winner then gets to spend the next year travelling the province as the Queen of the Furrow and visiting all the rural and county plowing matches and agricultural expos.
“The amount of activities and experiences you get out of this is amazing. You don’t realize how much there is to see and learn about until you actually get to do this,” she says.
“It’s just one of those experiences where I highly recommend you check out,” Nauta says of the IPM. “You’re going to see live music, live entertainment, there’s a rodeo, demonstrations you’ve probably never seen before, and you will learn so much about agriculture. So come out with an open mind and just expect to have a good time.”