RUSSELL – Entering its second decade, the wildly popular Living Locally Fair sponsored by the Russell Horticultural Society has become a victim of its own success and will shrink in size during this, the society’s 100th anniversary year.

Set for next Sat., Jan. 19, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic High School, Living Locally is pulling back from its years of steady expansion in response to growing requests from exhibitors, capping the total at 106. Last year, that number was 138.

Living Locally Fair has become the largest annual event to occur in any school within the sprawling Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario. Some 5,000 visitors pack the halls of St. Thomas, checking out the local food, art, crafts, clothing, community and environmental group displays. Living Locally Fair coordinator Lindley McPhail said about 10 among the 2019 exhibitors will be first-timers.  

As part of restricting the exhibitor total, the soup lunch sponsored by the society has been terminated to make more room for exhibits because seven classrooms will no longer be used in the mix of spaces. Another new spot will be the stage where six exhibitors will be located. The change is in part to spare teacher Ann Jackson and others the chore of clearing classes for the show and returning them to full teaching mode by Monday morning.

McPhail observed that tight teamwork on the part of many volunteers has permitted the horticultural society’s signature event to continue; however, new volunteers are becoming harder to come by and existing ones are stretched during the show.

She gave full marks to the school board, St. Thomas teachers and students for helping to build Living Locally Fair into a must-attend event. For a modest rental fee, the board provides the space; teachers and students arrange it for the show. Students also help out during the one-day fair, as greeters, trouble-shooting, and with set up and take down of booths. Living Locally Fair is only possible because of this cooperation.

After expenses, several thousand dollars in returns generated by Living Locally Fair go into the coffers of the horticultural society. The money is reinvested back into Russell Village and area, largely through gardening projects such as the ones at the local library, MacDougall Park, and fitness trail. This year, a number of events have been added to help celebrate the 100th.