By Barry Dyck

“Winter” on the Farm

   The Victoria Day long weekend used to be one of my favourite times of the year. What could be better than a three-day weekend at the time of year when spring is turning to summer? The grass is green but still short. The days are long but not too hot. Flowers and trees are blossoming, but the weeds have not yet taken over. I remember such weekends with fondness.

   Sadly, this year’s Victoria Day long weekend did not fall into that category. The grass was green but partially covered with snow. The days were long, but several of them were very cold for May. The blossoms on the trees were in danger of freezing, and gardens were too wet to even walk in. Those were just minor personal frustrations, but they gave rise to more challenging issues for Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV).

    Spring on the Farm is traditionally our first festival of the season and has for years taken place on Victoria Day. So for weeks prior, we plan and prepare for that day. Plans are coordinated with the Southeast Implement Collectors, because this event includes their annual tractor show. Arrangements are also made with the petting zoo, the entertainers, and other service providers. About 100 volunteers are recruited. Food and other supplies are purchased. The yard and heritage buildings are groomed and cleaned. Sponsors are signed up, and promotional materials are prepared. All this is done well in advance, in anticipation of hosting up to 2000 guests when that day finally arrives.

   So when Spring on the Farm turned into Winter on the Farm this Victoria Day, we made the difficult-but-necessary decision to cancel the show. With snow on the ground and a strong north wind, we determined that the few guests who might attend despite the cold weather would not enjoy these conditions. We also determined that the volunteers who would be coming to serve our guests would also not enjoy their roles in these conditions.

   As it turned out, the weekend’s foul weather created other challenges as well. Several roofs were already found to be leaking during Thursday’s rainfall. Given the storm warnings and forecasts for 80 mm of rain on the weekend, those leaky roofs urgently needed to be fixed. The crawlspace under the Village Centre is well serviced by sump pumps, but the drainage around the building is so poor that water coming off the roofs readily makes its way into the crawlspace, creating puddles and a lot of humidity. Wind warnings always create anxiety with respect to the security of our tent. The 40 x 100 foot canvas is always eager to cooperate with the wind. When the soil around the tent gets saturated with water, the challenge of holding the tent in place becomes increasingly difficult.

   I know that the One who creates and controls the weather cares about us as individuals and, I believe, cares about organizations like Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV). So at a time like this, I am peaceful about the fact that I can’t control the weather, even when it seems unsuitable for the day. What challenged me were the decisions that needed to be made to minimize the negative impacts of the weather. How would I get roofers to come and repair leaks on a Saturday? What short-term measures could be taken, again on a Saturday, to improve the drainage around the Village Centre so the crawlspace wouldn’t flood? (And how will we find the resources down the road to do that major drainage repair?) If the forecast of 80 km/hour winds, mixed with rain and snow, would actually materialize, how would we keep the tent from coming apart? How many times during the night would I need to check the tent to ensure its security? And finally, how would we decide whether or not to cancel Spring on the Farm? These were the questions that dampened the pleasure of this long weekend.

   As it turned out, Racka Roofing came to fix our roof on Saturday (thank you!); the crawlspace got wet but didn’t flood seriously; the tent threatened to come apart a couple of times, but nobody had to sleep onsite to monitor it; and the decision to cancel Spring on the Farm actually came quite easily and was broadly supported by staff, board members, volunteers and the public. Another lesson in faith, perseverance and patience.

Calendar of Events

May 24 – MHV Faspa with The Sisters of the Holy Rock; 2:30 PM

June 7 – Lions Car Show

June 13 – MHV/Eden Tractor Trek

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About the Author

Barry is the Executive Director of the Mennonite Heritage Village. While he does not consider himself to be a historian, he places a high value on the preservation and interpretation of the Mennonite and pioneer stories that help people of all ages understand and appreciate their heritage. Learn more about the MHV.

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