‘Day in the Country 2013’ postscript by Trudy Alm
Our local community has an annual fundraising event. This year it was huge - biggest ever! We raised a record amount which will be used to continue the major renovations being done to the aging historic hall that is the hub of our vibrant little neighbourhood.
Ice cream stall
The weather was perfect, albeit a bit hot. Such a relief after the crazy storms we have been experiencing - wild winds, electrical storms and intermittent deluges of rain. It meant that all the people who booked stalls actually came, along with the crowds. One bit of feedback was “the crowds were like the Royal Easter Show”, except she knew everyone!
There were 25 extra helpers this year. The three (aging) guys who usually set all the marquees up, erect awnings, put out the dozens of trestles and several hundred chairs and a dozen other jobs that have to be done before and after the actual day... were beside themselves with happiness at having a team of people helping them. The buzz, the feeling of camaraderie, community spirit as we all chipped in together to get the work done was a palpable thing.
A friend and I wrangled our daughters into helping. My friend is a newcomer to the area and has willingly embraced the concept of ‘community spirit’. She had bravely taken on being a section head for the Devonshire tea stall and then panicked about not having enough helpers. Her daughter goes to uni near my daughter in the Big Smoke so the two city girls arrived together. That all worked very well. They were run off their feet all morning, quieter in the afternoon and made $1200 for the hall. That is a lot of cups of tea and scones! The girls seemed enjoyed the experience.
Initially, my daughter asked me - "Well, why aren't the locals helping?"
Actually, this event really brings the locals together and also many supporters who come in from elsewhere. The problem, one that is common to many small rural areas, there are not many of us and a great many tasks. There is the Devonshire tea stall, Home-made pies & rolls stall, the Kitchen with full lunches, the BBQ, the Drinks stall, the Ice-Cream stall. Most of these requires one person as cashier so they are not handling food, at least one server (two to three during peak times - we are serving many hundreds of people) and one or two in the background doing preparation. And most people can't work all day, so there are rosters for each...
Then there is the Art Exhibition, the Animal petting zoo and the Kids' Activities, all run by volunteers. There is an MC on the mike making announcements and keeping the entertainers moving smoothly through the day. Parking - the logistics of parking a thousand or so cars in our tiny neighbourhood! The parking boys do a great job. This year they had walkie-talkies which apparently made a huge difference and a couple of extra helpers. There is the Bucket Brigade that collects the gold coin donation as people flock in. Arrivals come from different directions, so several buckets are needed at any given time - not to be sneezed at, this raises about $2000 for us.
There is the Information booth where visitors turn those donations into tickets in the huge raffle and can purchase paraphernalia like our printed tea-towels (this varies from year to year).
My mother has decided a permanent new job needs to be the Toilet Monitor - she has volunteered herself for next year, and we hope that thereafter the position will always be filled by someone. Not a sexy job - but there is nothing worse than toilet paper running out. 25 years ago, she decided that Parking was a job that needed to be done and so she created that role - dressed in red and white with white gloves, she parked all cars whether they were going to the fair or not!
Picking up the rubbish
Man, you should have seen the line up of bins for the garbo later that week. The hall only has a couple of garbage bins of its own; apparently all the neighbours brought theirs. Returning plates and cutlery to the kitchen, where they are efficiently dealt with by the industrial dishwasher that has been installed along with the new kitchen.
There are the Officials who place the stallholders as they arrive in the morning and deal with all questions and problems. Two people were rostered for First Aid. The huge task of setting up at the beginning and then packing it all away at the end is made faster and easier by more people helping. Until this year, when I became actively involved (rather than just donating goods to fundraising stalls), I had no real appreciation of how much work goes into pulling this event off. You can see it is a major drama but not feel the depth of it until you actually participate.
And so my daughter said - "Sure mum, I would be proud to come and help!"
There is a man who used to live in the area. Now he has retired to the Gold Coast. He comes down every year just to slave away in the kitchen and barely has a chance to have a look at the market himself (like so many helpers on the day). He used to cook for the kitchen apparently. Oh, there is another big job - making all those yummy home-made pies and desserts and all. Or buying for and stocking the stalls. Advertising is a vital task. Two local TV stations came out - we got a minute and a half on the news with one of them.
Life after our Big Day seems a bit quiet. I keep thinking there is something that I ought to be doing; that has been overlooked perhaps?
Brand new day