Wiikwemkoong Fall Fair fun for the whole herd

Wiikwemkoong Fall Fair lightweight horse pull champion Katie Pyette Cyr. photo by Joanne Roy Peltier

WIIKWEMKOONG—The Wiikwemkoong Fall Fair was held this past weekend on what felt more like the first weekend of summer than the first weekend of fall. The unusually high temperatures did little, however, to deter fair goers, and all early indications point toward great attendance numbers according to Wikwemikong Agricultural Group committee member Jacqueline Hopkin. This year’s theme, “Fun for the Whole Herd,” was evident in the variety of events for all ages.

The events were kicked off Wednesday night with a Parade of Lights Bike Night, which was an opportunity for cyclists to decorate their bikes with lights and ride down the main street of Wiikwemkoong en masse. First-time participant Kendra Kitchikeg liked “how everyone lit up their bikes and played music” and thought taking off together was “a lot of fun!” She enjoyed the event with her family and is looking forward to the next one.

Friday evening, the family of the late Louis Manitowabi, hosted a family dance in his honour. Mr. Manitowabi was “an integral part of reviving the Fall Fair and was the lead organizer for many years,” explains Lenore Manitowabi, daughter of the late Mr. Manitowabi, when asked about the importance of honouring her father at the Fall Fair. She goes on to explain that her father was “passionate about the importance that agriculture plays in our everyday lives – it’s what puts food on the table.” For these reasons, honouring him at the Fall Fair was only natural. Unfortunately, however, due to a death in the family, key organizing members of the family were not able to be at the dance and had to find last minute organizers to assist on the evening of the dance. Ms. Manitowabi expressed her profound gratitude to community members Shelley Trudeau and Dawn Wemigwans, who stepped forward to ensure that the dance, organized in her father’s honour, was still able to happen. The grandchildren of Mr. Manitowabi were at the dance and were able to participate in this fun tribute to their grandfather at the fair that he was so fond of.

Emma Shigwadja takes younger brother Carter for a horse ride.
photos by Giselle Aiabens

Saturday’s events started with the parade of floats creatively put together by organizations and families, followed by a pancake breakfast fundraiser and exhibit at the arena, which included entries by school groups and community members alike. The exhibit served as an opportunity for Janine Pitawanakwat of the Wikwemikong Development Commission (WDC) to promote the directory of agricultural and handmade products she is currently compiling. Ms. Pitawanakwat explains that the directory is “an opportunity for community members to advertise their products, for free, whether they be food items like fruits and vegetables or other hand-made products.” She encourages interested community members who would like to be included in the directory to contact her at the WDC office.

The bulk of the outdoor events were held at Thunderbird Park including afternoon entertainment with Eugene Manitowabi and Friends, various activities such as texas horseshoes, capture the flag, round bale rolling, and water hauling, a look-alike contest, dance demonstrations, potato sack races, pony rides, as well as a number of vendor booths with food and produce.

Eugene Manitowabi, who will be inducted into the Northern Ontario Country Music Association Hall of Fame on November 2 in Sault Ste. Marie, takes to the stage with a few of his good friends.

The current fall apple harvest provided an excellent opportunity for community members Christianna Jones and Jocelyn Bebamikawe to show off their apple press, making delicious apple cider for those interested in trying their hand at using the apple press. Ms. Jones explains that the Food Share and Value-Added Apple Product Initiative Program, which is responsible for bringing the apple press to the fall fair, will soon be receiving three more apple presses, five grinders and three bottle-fillers which will be made available for community members’ use. Ms. Bebamikawe encourages community members to utilize these tools in order to better use the “resources (apples) that are already available” to us. They will be setting up at the Whitefish Festival on November 1 as well as at the Six-Foot Festival at Debajehmujig Creation Centre in Manitowaning, where anyone can bring their apples to turn into juice, which they can then take home.

Kim Manitowabi, one of the key organizers of the ATV Poker Run, was pleased with the event, explaining that it “was a great time with 20 bikes and 24 participants in total.” Dan Bowerman won with four aces. The run lasted about four hours and organizers are looking forward to hosting it again next year.

The Horse Pull competition always makes for great excitement, and this year’s winners include Brandon Gilbert of Purple Valley placing first in the heavy weight division pulling 6,000 pounds over 6’2,” followed closely by Stan Osawamick in second place, pulling 6,000 pounds over 3’11” and Jerold Webkamigad in third. Sheguiandah’s Katie Cyr took first place in the light weight division pulling 5,000 pounds over 20 feet, second and third place went to John Graham and Blaine Gilbert, respectively. Katie Cyr was also awarded best teamster. In a fitting tribute, with Chief and Council support and sponsorship, the horse pull area was dedicated to the late Leonard “Chicken” George who was instrumental in bringing horse pulling to the community­­––it is now known as Leonard “Chicken” George Memorial Horse Pull Park.

The fall fair committee hosted a licensed dance Saturday night with Elliott Lake native, Mike Trudell, who is looking forward to heading back to Nashville in a couple of short months to begin recording a new album, which will be out in early 2018. Mr. Trudell, who credits his inspiration from artists such as Allan Jackson, Garth Brooks, George Jones, and Merle Haggard, expressed his appreciation for the warm reception and support he’s received on Manitoulin Island and hopes to be back in 2018 to promote his new album.

The Fall Fair is, as Ms. Hopkin describes, “a community driven event which provides a chance for community members to give back.” This giving back to the community was definitely apparent in the many events hosted by different community members and organizations. It is this wonderful community spirit which will ensure the Fall Fair, on which the late Louis Manitowabi and his contemporaries worked so hard to revive, continues.