The disbandment of another volunteer organization is taking its toll in South Frontenac Township.
“We’re losing our history,” responded Township Councillor Ron Sleeth after hearing of the closure of Kingston Area Antique Association; a volunteer club that has hosted a two-day antique show every summer for almost 40 years.
Held at Ken Garrett Memorial Park before it was moved to Odessa, Homesteader Days was a showcase of the innovation and accomplishments of our farming forefathers.
It was where history came alive. Where old tractors and hit & miss engines hummed the song of a bygone era when machinery was still a marvel.
“It’s sad this has taken place,” said Sleeth from his dairy farm in Battersea. “Homesteader Days was such a vibrant show. People by the hundreds attended to see that old machinery working.”
A member of the club for approximately 15 years, President Earl Brown noted about the disbandment of the club and end of Homesteader Days, “I’m very much disappointed that we weren’t able to continue-on.”
Speaking from his home in Tamworth, Brown said, “Our finances had dwindled to the point where we weren’t able to support another show in the same way.”
Brown cited declining membership and increasing costs as the downfall of the club’s signature event.
“Insurance is what really took a toll on us,” admitted the president. “It came down to the finances to what actually shut us down. Our gate receipts were disappointing the last few years.”
The president sees the loss of the antique show as a blow to the community.
“That’s what inspired me to rejuvenate some old machinery,” he said with enthusiasm. “It was for my own satisfaction and the hope that other people would see it and really appreciate what our forefathers worked-with to cultivate the land.”
One of these items, an antique hay press owned by the club, remains to be relocated. Members are considering sending it to an agricultural museum in Stirling or a working mill in Madoc.
“Any funds left will be distributed among three or four non-profit organizations,” confirmed Secretary Glenn Babcock.
A hobby farmer in Harrowsmith, Babcock, 65, was a younger member of the club that had an average age of 70 plus.
“The club is officially disbanded,” he confirmed in early March. “Homesteader Days is officially done
Citing diminishing membership and the high cost of insurance as the death knell, he admitted, “It’s killing a lot of fairs as well.”
“It just got to be too few members,” he said, clearly disheartened. “It ended up being too much, for too few. I’m disappointed – we all were. But we had to deal with reality.”