Hillhurst Sunnyside Harvest Fair celebrates urban agriculture

The Hillhurst Sunnyside Fair co-ordinators can clap themselves on the back, as they went above and beyond their goal for the event’s second consecutive year.

On Oct. 3, the community association combined the usual outdoor farmers’ market with an urban twist on a classic horticultural fair.

After the fair’s success last year, Janet Melrose, garden animator for the Calgary Horticultural Society, set out to double the entries.

“We put it together in a rush as usual, but we had 70 entries at that time,” she explained.

This year, 216 entries were made in different categories, covering everything from largest sunflower head to best homemade pie.

“The energy in the room was marvelous,” says Melrose.

“I think our fair was about as perfect as I could have imagined it this year,” says Joe Vipond, a community organizer for the past three years.

Vipond is a part-time emergency doctor, father, and volunteer. He set out to give the farmers’ market much-needed focus, and gathered his inspiration from other Canadian horticultural fairs.

“There’s just something really fun about seeing what your neighbors are producing,” he says.

“People loved seeing the unusual vegetables, the pathetic vegetables and the biggest pumpkin. So we know people are coming to see the edibles,” says Melrose.

Getting Calgarians excited for what could be grown in an urban setting is also what Vipond hopes to achieve through the fair.

“People were sharing and saying ‘Next year I’m going to enter this,’ and just really enthralled with what we can grow in Calgary,” says Melrose.

“It was very interactive and visual and tactile.”

Vipond sees this year’s fair as a huge success, but acknowledges that something is still missing.

“I don’t want this to be an old person’s event, I want it to be a very well-rounded event.”

“We did have kid’s categories that were sparsely entered into, and the teenage category had almost no entries.”

Vipond wants to see the fair become something that people from ages four to 34 will want to get involved in, rather than only seniors “doddering about the garden,” he says.

Overall, the harvest fair was “a true community event,” with feedback that is unanimously positive.

“It was a universal feeling of goodwill, which is rare and most enjoyable when it happens,” muses Melrose.

Planning for the third annual Harvest Fair has already begun, with a hefty goal set for 1000 entries.

For more information on the fair, click here.

About Amy Reding 6 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Amy Reding worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2012-2013 academic year.