CARSTAIRS — Talented gardeners, artisans of all stripes, as well as the culinarily-inclined had an opportunity last week to showcase their abilities to the community for the first time in more than two years.
After being cancelled in both 2020 and 2021 as a result of uncertainty pertaining to pandemic restrictions, the Carstairs Horticultural and Craft Show finally made a comeback.
“Our last show was in 2019,” said Cathy Haider, chair of the Carstairs Horticultural and Craft Show Committee who also serves as a director-at-large on the Carstairs & District Agricultural Society’s board.
“Honestly, we are rusty,” Haider candidly told the Albertan during a phone interview when asked how once again hosting the event felt.
“There are so many issues that we have to face,” she said, citing as examples supplies and expenses. “Volunteers are not really all ready to come out and help. Costs of things; our budget is, you know, amplifying. We’ve had our challenges for sure."
Yet despite the hurdles organizers have had to overcome, Haider said there was also no shortage of excitement.
“It’s a wonderful thing that we’re offering to our community,” she said, adding some people come from a wide-spanning area ranging between Calgary and Olds.
“The enthusiasm that we see, it’s over-the-top rewarding.”
And this year’s return of the event, which first started in 1945 as a competitive showcase featuring floral varieties, delivered a brand new never-before-seen, week-long format that ran from Monday to Saturday at the Carstairs Curling Rink. Entries were received throughout the week and judged on Friday, while members of the public were welcome to drop by and view the submissions on Saturday, followed by the awards ceremony later that same afternoon.
“In years past, we tried to pull off the show in one day,” Haider said. “It was just way too much happening and way too much pressure. And so this year was quite different.”
Among the many categories were floral competitions ranging from gladiolas and dahlias to marigolds, petunias and plenty of others. The fruit and vegetable category included a variety of sub-categories ranging from potatoes and carrots to cucumbers, tomatoes and many others.
Baked goods included different kinds of bread as well as staples such as cinnamon buns, muffins and cookies.
Handicrafts were broken into numerous sub-categories such as knitting, crochet, stitchery, sewing, and quilting, while hobby crafts included entries of ceramic and wood work as well as dolls and holiday decorations.
Artworks featured among others entries in oil painting and water colour as well as pencil drawings and pastels. Photographic submissions had categories such as action shots, landscapes, wildlife, portraits, architectural, atmospheric effects like sunrises or sunsets, black and white tonal work, and even pictures taken on a smart phone.
There were also junior exhibitors showcasing flowers, vegetables, baked goods, handi and hobby crafts, artwork as well as photography.
Judging was conducted courtesy of accredited Alberta Horticultural Association show judges who offered all of the participants constructive feedback.
Origins as a flower show
“It was originally just a flower show. Then over the years, it grew to include the vegetables and now it’s the arts, crafts and baking as well,” she said. “Our main focus is to kind of recognize all of our community horticulturists, avid gardeners, and there’s so much talent as far as the arts. So, that’s what we’re all about: is recognizing those individuals in our community.”
In the absence of the pandemic, this year would have been the 77th annual show. But because of the two cancellations, the event was celebrated as a milestone 75th anniversary.
That meant including a special 75th Anniversary Heritage category.
“It’s a tradition,” she said. “On the anniversaries, they offer special categories.”
The committee also decided to amplify the Canadian Garden Council’s proclamation of 2022 as the Year of the Garden. According to the Canadian Garden Council’s official website, passion for gardening reached new heights during the pandemic, with nearly 83 per cent of Canadian households tending to some form of a garden in 2021.
“We thought that the Year of the Garden was an awesome thing to promote,” said Haider, adding the committee successfully applied to become a Friend of Year of the Garden, enabling them to use the latter’s digital assets on promotional material.
“We’ve created four categories specially for Year of the Garden,” she added.
The committee had over the last two years assembled and gone through the initial motions of planning the event by booking judges and facilities, but ended up erring on the side of caution and cancelling, she said.
“We didn’t feel comfortable,” she said.
Plans to offer some kind of substitute event these past couple of years also did not materialize.
“We thought about doing educational sessions. We were eager, but we couldn’t find anybody to manage that,” she said. “So, there wasn’t a lot of activity for our committee.”
But they were not prepared to throw in the towel a third time in a row, and remain entirely committed to keeping the show alive.
“These shows are starting to go by the wayside…many have closed over the years,” she said. “We’re one of the few remaining.”
And despite the overall downward trend in these kinds of events, interest in the Carstairs Horticultural and Craft Show seems to remain relatively vibrant.
In 2019, there were 300 participants who submitted approximately 1,000 entries, said Haider.
“When I tell other show organizers, they’re just astounded,” she said.
Asked what organizers had expected in the days leading up to the show’s public viewing, she said, “This year, we have no idea. Rumour on the street is through the pandemic, there’s only so much of the crafts and all these things that they’ve been working on that they could give away. So, we could end up with a huge volume – more than we can handle, and we’re trying to plan for that.”
In the end, the 2022 Carstairs Horticultural and Craft Show attracted shy of 100 adult and junior participants who submitted a combined total of nearly 600 entries. About 170 people came through the doors on Saturday, Aug. 20 to check out the exhibition.
Although a far cry from the 1,000 entries submitted in 2019, Haider said those who did attend offered positive feedback, with many participants expressing a keen interest for another opportunity to come back again next year.
- Amelia Warden, 5 and Under Best in Show;
- Abbey Lefebvre, Junior High Points Baking;
- Abbey Leedholm, Junior High Points Hobbycrafts and Artwork Junior High Points in Show;
- Nikolas Roy/Amy Dyer, Junior High Points Flowers;
- Lincoln Steingart, Junior High Points Vegetables;
- Quinn Stoesser, Junior Runner-up High Points Flowers;
- Quinn Stoesser/Abby Stoesser, Junior Runner-up High Points Vegetables;
- Scarlett Madore, Junior High Points Handicrafts, Junior Runner-up High Points Hobby Crafts and Artwork, Junior Best in Show Artwork and Junior People's Choice Award;
- Reece Lefebvre, Junior Runner-up High Points Baking and Junior Runner-up High Points Photography;
- Marlana Dyer/Avery Madore, Junior Runner-up High Points Handicrafts;
- Abbey Stoesser, Junior Best in Show Photography and Junior High Points Photography;
- Amy Dyer, Junior Best in Show Fairy Garden;
- Avery Madore, "Best 75th Anniversary Posters - Junior";
- Hunter Madore, Junior Best in Show Baking;
- James Dyer, Junior Best in Show Sunflower Arrangement;
- Nikolas Roy, Junior Best in Show Hobby Crafts;
- Angeleah Couch, Year of the Garden Celebration Garden Photo.
- Tracy Colosino, High Points in Show, High Points Flowers, High Points Photography, High Points Vegetable and Fruit, Runner-up High Points Baking and Preserves, Runner-up High Points Hobbycraft and Artwork, Best 75th Anniversary Decorated Cake, Best in Show Baking, Best in Show Fairy Garden, Best in Show Rose, and Year Of the Garden Red Flower;
- Stacey Girletz, High Points Baking and Preserves;
- Frances Burnham, Runner-up High Points Photography;
- Melissa Madore, Runner-up High Points Handicrafts;
- Tanya Lefebvre, Runner-up High Points Vegetables and Fruit;
- Lyndon Raugust, Best in Show Photography;
- Lynn Bessey, Best in Show Woodworking and People's Choice;
- Marlene Steingart, High Points Handicrafts, Best in Show Crochet Article and Best in Show Knitted Article;
- Mary Jane Davies, Runner-up High Points Flowers, Best in Show Dahlia, Best in Show Gladiola and Best in Show Vegetable Collection;
- Pam Montgomery, Best in Show Artwork;
- Walter Steingart, Best in Show Hobby Crafts and High Points Hobby Crafts and Artwork;
- Yvette Wasyliw, Best in Show Handicraft;
- Andrea Suais, Best in Show Quilting;
- Val Carleton, Year of the Garden Celebration Garden Photo.