Surprisingly, amazingly, a full decade has elapsed since the last International Plowing Match was staged east of Ottawa, a decade during which a hard core of Navan IPM 2001 organizers have worked valiantly to erase the bad feelings left behind.
By all accounts, the 2001 edition of the Ontario Plowmenís Association rotating agricultural showcase was a financial flop, losing at least half a million bucks, exactly the amount most IPMs are able to raise and distribute to worthy causes after all the bills are paid.
The holdover 2001 committee members succeeded in mitigating the sour taste by continuing to raise funds for cancer research long after the tents and hydro poles were packed up and moved along to the next IPM site.
And now the IPM is back in the area, about as far east as you can go in Ontario, east of Hawkesbury even, spread over three farms at Chute-ŗ-Blondeau, Sept. 20-24.
Has the 2001 match had a lingering effect on the 2011 edition? While Champlain Twp. mayor Gary Barton, chair of the 2011 organizing committee, reported some confusion and negativity early in the process, it now appears this IPM will be free to make it or break it on its own, completely separated in most residentsí minds from 2001.
Blame for the 2001 fiasco was attributed to a combination of setting attendance sights unrealistically high and spending money that wasnít in hand, particularly on "bilingualizing" the show. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington only a week before the Navan IPM took a toll on the crowd, and several days were rained out.
So far, the 2011 organizing committee hasnít made any outrageous predictions about attendance, profit or anything else and, barring another global terrorist strike, seems poised to enjoy the success typical of your formulaic IPM with its built-in following along with any new converts it makes in a given community.
Barton insisted lessons were learned from the Navan experience and he and fellow committee members acted accordingly. For example, they salvaged bilingual directional signs from the 2009 IPM in Temiskaming to use in 2011, saving an estimated $20,000.
The 2011 edition, he said, will be the most bilingual ever but without generating any big bills as a result.
He suggested the 2011 IPM enjoyed more support form local government Ė in this case, the United Counties of Prescott and Russell Ė than Navan which, through the City of Cumberland, had recently been amalgamated into Ottawa which just didnít get it.
The 2011 committee started up with a $100,000 line of credit backed by P&R, a rural jurisdiction that understood the IPM would put it on the big time map.
Early on, business sponsorships came on as well, including $25,000 from St. Albert Cheese Factory used in part to finance the traditional fundraising IPM cook book. On the promotional side, Leduc Bus Lines Ltd. created a mobile billboard for the 2011 show on one of its coaches.
With attendance in the 70,000-80,000 range a realistic goal, the success of the annual exposition wherever itís held is based entirely on the capabilities and dedication of local organizers, their ability to draw hundreds of volunteers and sponsorships, and on careful budgeting.
Chatting a few weeks before the big show, Barton didnít seem to have a care in the world, a happy situation for which he thanked IPM committee members, staff, and more than 800 volunteers.
"If we can get 75,000, weíll be on cloud nine," he said, allowing that his only real concern is the one thing he canít control... weather.
"If we can only get the weather on our side," he sighed.