By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Travelling through town putting up posters for their annual Easter egg hunt last Monday afternoon, Morinville and District Ag Society President Barry Bradley does so with a smile on his face. One would have no idea there was something weighing heavy on his mind; his organization, begun nearly four decades ago, is in danger of folding.
“We’re like any other volunteer organization; we’re having a hard time getting new members,” Bradley said. “We’re required by the Agricultural Societies Act to have 12 board members. We don’t seem to have a problem getting 12 board members. We do have a problem getting 12 active board members.”
Bradley explained the organization has the same five or six members attending board meetings and doing the ground work for the various events the ag society puts on. In order for those events to continue and for new ones to be developed, Bradley realizes new members will be needed.
“If we put on an event, we have lots of help, but not lots of help getting ready for the event,” Bradley said. “Those of us that are on there have been on there for quite a few years, and we’re not getting a whole lot of new blood in. New blood would mean new ideas. We’re sort of at that point where if we don’t get some new active members, this may well be our last year.”
It would be a regrettable situation for Bradley, his members, and in their opinion, the surrounding community itself. Formed as a society in 1975, the Morinville and District Agricultural Society has long played an active role in Morinville and Sturgeon County, helping to fund parks, the walking trails, batting cages, the arena, and financially supporting a number of groups and initiatives, including sponsoring the winner of the Family Day snowman contest in Morinville, giving an annual $1,000 bursary to 4H, and funding girls’ softball and the Morinville Tiny Tots. Bradley said over the nearly four decades the society has existed, the donations and sponsorship list is as long as his arm.
These days the ag society continues to support a number of those programs and events as well as run several of their own. Their annual Easter egg hunt which draws large numbers of children for a fun day of candy hunting is now in its seventh year of operation. Their annual Tearin’ Up the Turf bull riding event is now in its tenth year of existence and continues to bring world class bull riders to the area. Additionally, the ag society will inherit the Boo at the Barn this year, a Halloween-themed event that was started by the Morinville Centennial Celebrations Committee in 2011.
As the region has changed, so too has the ag society. What hasn’t changed is the Morinville and District Agricultural Society’s commitment to the community and the families that live in it.
“The ag society in the past was involved with the farming community, and promoted agriculture in every way, shape or form,” Bradley said. “I think that, in the last little while, has changed quite a bit. Now the ag society seems to be what can we do for the community.”
Bradley explained he and his members are often surprised when they attend ag society conferences because of the variety of initiatives and programs the province’s agricultural societies are involved with in their communities.
Looking for members, looking for ideas
Bradley said membership in the Morinville and District Ag Society is open to Morinville and Sturgeon County residents 18 years of age and older. Those outside the region require a special vote of the board.
Although the group is involved in a number of events and programs, Bradley explained the time commitment is not cumbersome; monthly board meetings run approximately 90 minutes in length, and events can consume four to six hours of a member’s time.
“I think the biggest thing we’re looking for is some new, fresh ideas, new energy, and how we can improve what we’re already doing,” Bradley said, adding in his seven years as president he has taken the view that no idea is a stupid idea.
Those interested in learning more about the Morinville and District Agricultural Society can do so by visiting www.madas.org or contacting Barry Bradley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bradley can also be contacted at 780-939-4606.