Avery Sheppard named 2019 Providence Bay Fair Ambassador

Back row, from left, Kyra Bayer, David Hall, Summer Beaudin, front row, 2019 Ambassador Avery Sheppard and first runner up, Mackenzie Cortes. photo by Tom Sasvari

by Betty Bardswich

PROVIDENCE BAY – Many will probably be amazed to learn that the competition for the Providence Bay Fair Ambassador began in 1969. Emcee for the 2019 pageant, Karlene Scott told the audience that this contest has been a major tradition since 1969 when it was first introduced as a Dairy Princess Competition and the young ladies who competed were required to not only give a speech but also had to milk a cow. This lasted for three years and the young ladies who held the title were Shirley Lentir, now Legge, Bev Legge, now McDermid, and Patricia Wilson, now Meinzinger.

“In 1972,” Ms. Scott said, “thanks to Toots McDermid and Evelyn Legge changed the competition to a Fair Queen pageant, where the girls were only required to give a speech and, in 1997, the title was changed to Fair Ambassador, opening the competition up to both young ladies and young men to compete. And this year we have introduced some major changes to our new Ambassador Program. The winner is eligible to receive a bursary of $1,000 once all commitments of the full year have been met. The winner will be expected to attend a number of major activities throughout the year on Manitoulin Island. They are also expected to attend the Agricultural Convention held each February in Toronto. We are also offering a mentoring program to prepare the contestant for the CNE competition. Our 2018 Ambassador April Torkopolous is presently attending the CNE Ambassador of the Fairs.”

There were five participants in this year’s competition and Ms. Scott told the participants, “You are all winners just by stepping on this stage.”

Summer Beaudin of M’Chigeeng was the first to speak and she talked of her pride in Manitoulin and of the Ojibwe legends on how Manitoulin came to be. She said that it is an isle of culture and spoke of the powwows held on the reserves and encouraged everyone to come out and dance. “A Haweater,” she added, “is a unique way of living,” and also noted that “each place can tell a million stories. There are 12,000 people here and twice as many deer.” Ms. Beaudin talked about the classic places on the Island and finished her speech by saying, “I am proud to be an Anishinaabek from Manitoulin.”

David Hall of Gordon Township was the next speaker. He is working for Manitoulin Transport for the summer and will be returning to Cambrian College in the fall. Mr. Hall spoke of farming and how climate change can affect this industry. “Our farmers are up to the challenge,” he said. “Our farmers take great pride in raising healthy cattle without antibiotics. Through the ages, farming has changed a lot. New technology and always at the mercy of Mother Nature with floods in the spring and drought in the summer. I take my hat off to you all.”

The next contestant to speak was Mackenzie Cortes who lives in Little Current. 

Ms. Cortes began by saying that she would be “sharing some of the reasons why she is proud to live on the largest freshwater island in the world.” 

“Something that I get to wake up to every morning,” she said, “is the nature of Manitoulin Island. Our beautiful sunsets and starry nights aren’t things that everyone in the world can see as often as we do.” She also spoke of all the focal points to see including 10 Mile Point, Bridal Veil Falls and the Cup and Saucer, and of the theatres and the showcasing of the artistic talents of Ivan Wheale, Leland Bell, James Simon, Daphne Odjig and countless others. Ms. Cortes finished her speech by saying, “We are not an island of strangers, we are an island of friends you haven’t met yet.”

Avery Sheppard lives in Mindemoya and has never missed a fair in 17 years. Her speech was about Purvis Brothers, the fish company that was started in the 1870s and sent fish to New York and Toronto. She also talked about her great-grandfather who started the largest turkey farm on the Island and would ship 2,000 of them to Toronto. Ms. Sheppard said that she goes to Burnt Island every summer to help the fishery and that she now drives the Friday fish truck that her mom and grandfather used to drive. Purvis Brothers is 137 years old, Ms. Sheppard noted, and finished her talk by saying that one of her relatives said, “A bad day of fishing is better than a good day in the office.”

Kyra Bayer of M’Chigeeng was the final contestant to speak and her talk centred on the beauty of Manitoulin and why she is proud to call it home. She told her audience of the many medicinal uses of the plants around us. “A large leaf in our yard can be used to treat wounds and rashes,” she said. “Red willow, boiled to make a pain reliever like aspirin, cedar from a branch, boiled as a tea to help treat a cold. Chaga is a fungus that grows on birch trees and boiled as a drink can be used to treat disease and boost your immune system.” Ms. Bayer also spoke of the plants and berries on the Island as well as the great differences that each season brings from the Trilliums and fiddleheads in the spring to the blaze of leaves in the fall. She finished by saying, “Mnidoo Mnising in my Ojibway language means island of the great spirit and our island is just that, great.”

Michelle Campbell, the Fair Ambassador for 2017 spoke at the competition and thanked the Providence Bay Agricultural Society for giving her the opportunity to be an ambassador as she met many other ambassadors, learned about many different fairs and agriculture in general. “My years as an ambassador were truly amazing,” she said, “I learned many things about myself, my community, and agriculture.”

The judges for the competition were former Fair Ambassador 2015 Mackenzie Gilmore, Providence Bay Agricultural Director Penny George, Agricultural Mentor/Farmer Andrew Volkes and businessman Wayne Legge.

They named Avery Sheppard as the Providence Bay Ambassador of the Fair.

Dawn Dawson, Providence Bay Agricultural Society secretary/treasurer, said she was pleased with the weekend’s events and deemed it a successful weekend.

Ms. Dawson congratulated the Duxbury family on winning the family fun trophy this year with 154 points.

While strolling the grounds or scrolling through social media, Ms. Dawson said she was blown away by the smiles she saw and the memories being made with family and friends, something that warmed her heart.

Ms. Dawson said she was happy to see the 2019 Ambassador Avery Sheppard making the round throughout the fairgrounds all weekend and said the agricultural society is looking forward to working with her on the year to come. As part of her duties, Avery must attend a minimum of five agricultural or community events throughout her term. Avery’s first official gig will be at the October 5 fundraising gala for the Manitoulin Food Bank.

“We were very pleased with the attendance and appreciate the families that come and take part,” Ms. Dawson concluded. “We’re looking forward to many more years to come.”