The Parish Fair’s Importance To Rural Communities and National Survival

By Messrs Alwin Edward Loblack Napier Charles of St Alphonsus Parish

Who remembers our culture of Koudmen – cooperative self help?

Who remembers of flower shows?

Who remembers the culture of village beautification projects and the pride that brought us?

Who remembers Expo 1969 with its dozen of stalls showcasing the agricultural industrial bounty of our fair island?

Who remembers when Fete Isidore made Grandbay the place to be with fresh fruit, vegetables and grand things done by the hands of the hardworking folk of majestic South City?

Who remembers the parish fairs of Marigot, Wesley and LaPlaine where farmers competed to show off the best yam, or the best banana bunch?

The national or parish fairs were noble events when our proud island folk displayed creativity, enterprise and productivity. The entire community would come together in industrious endeavor to show off what we did well. Bakers, tailors, fisher folk, farmers all taking pride in their work.

It brings sadness to all patriots when we see such an historical tradition of rural communities across Dominica fading away. We see no interest by the passport selling regime in building local pride by promoting local competence, technology or culture.

Over the years, people have forgotten the fair’s importance to the development of urban and rural communities we all know and love. The fair brought us together in common industrious endeavor and made our little island strong.

It is that lack of pride in self respect, self reliance and national pride, that has seen the disappearance of national and parish fairs. All because too many of us, including so-called leaders, don’t understand the fair’s importance. Our fair culture is an essential instrument in fostering community cohesion and progress, around the production of things meaningful.

We must rebuild the culture of the commons on Dominica when we got together to enjoy what we produced at the many fairs. By the sweat of our brows, and ingenuity, our people had arisen from the chains of colonial thralldom to embrace pride in self government.

The sentiment was to guild our lives by building a koudmen culture – cooperative self help. The fair was the primary manifestation of that culture of production performed with pride.

The fair’s importance dates back to a history when people loved to get together and celebrate. They celebrated successful learning and showed their best harvest and crafts. They taste tested entries to determine the best cake. The fair was a celebration everyone looked forward to. It brought the community together.

In those days, our folk did not gather at any government ministry to be enslaved by a culture of handouts by ministers who lorded it over the masses. Rather we productively kept our shoulders to the wheel by producing our best. At the fairs we would display the fruit of our honest labour – a term now dishonored by dishonest politicians. These tricksters clobber the nation with sweet talk of “sustainability” and “resiliency” when what they offer is insensibility and misery.

The success of the national and local fairs resided in a culture of local government where grassroots people had a voice in governance. A farmer does not grow the best pumpkin because an idle minister makes a long speech. A tailor does not craft a fine suit because he must gather in the hot sun in party colors, blowing a horn, jumping up and down; playing the fool. Our prosperity grew based on dignified and purpose driven enterprise.

Our youth were energized to showcase their talent in arts, craft, agricultural output and more. Our youth had something to look forward to, instead of being prostituted by scheming politicians as idle boys on the block.

We must gather again, as a country, around a sense of nonpartisan community.

We must make way for 4-H Clubs and the bakers. We must make way for the writers and the farmers. We must make way for our artisans and our local builders

We must join hands across the divide and rebuild our sense of community and purposeful living – putting country over party.

We must revel again in exhibits of local arts, book and exhibits that display our native intelligence.

Let us rid ourselves of the polluting plastic sheen of foreign cultures that are prejudicial to our native culture and indigenous pride.

Let us eradicate the self hate and disrespect that cause foreigners to walk on us in our own land.

Let us welcome outsiders, but do so with pride in country, honor in our achievements and respect for our self worth.

This is what our fairs can do:

Bring the Community Together:

The world we live in is small, but it still seems like life’s busy schedules get in the way of friendships and fun. The fair allows us to share the a sense of belonging and community building.

Fairs are community celebrations that brings everyone together each year.

Citizens come together to socialize, learn and enjoy good local food and entertainment. It’s events like these that many families can plan their schedules around each year.

Not only does it bring out the locals, but the county fair also brings back families who have moved away.

Many Dominicans abroad will return for reunion fairs. They will bring with them wisdom, networks and resources. They will reconnect to a sense of community. They will inject energy into our local economy.

The kids LOVE it!

Our kids are dying inside from too much television and do not know our history or their own country. They will look forward to spending the week at the fair. Hanging out on the grounds, they are free to discover new things and make new friends. It’s fun to watch the curiosity and excitement in their eyes as they gain new hobbies and interests to take home with them.

5. Shows Hobbies & Interests of the Community:

Through contests, exhibits, shows and entertainment, there are so many different things to see and do at the fair. One thing for sure – Each fair has it’s own unique specialty that sets it apart. People mingle and renew bonds of community affection and common interest at a fair – without the discord of petty tribal politics.

6. Heritage and history is part of what makes the community and the county fair awesome.

If you think about it, long ago founding members came to these fairs and used their hobbies and interests to make a living. Many of these hobbies and interests are still carried through today. You can explore them at the county fair.

7. Appreciate our soil. Our county is known for it’s rich soil:

You can check out the gardening and crops exhibits to see the fruits (and veggies) of labor that was achieved with great gardening practices rooted in our rich soil. Appreciating the fruits our soil educates us in way of environmental protection. Our community is proud of it’s history or heritage. At the fair we can appreciate that we are children of the soil. We can check out an agriculture and environmental exhibit where they have activities for all ages and a place to learn about that which sustains life in our community.

8. A showcase for our students:

Along with exhibits and learning, the fair is a safe place to exhibit local hobbies and talents of our students. In open class or as a youth in the 4-H or science club programs, there are many competitive classes to showcase the best of our students. Without competition, there would be no reason to showcase the best and learn from the best. Being the best is what helps our students and the economy continue to thrive.

9. Brings Economy to Community:

When people visit the community, they boost the economy by spurring small businesses. If you talk to many small business owners, they’ll tell you that fairs of old were the biggest weeks in income stream for their busines. The fair is important for small business growth. The fair week would be an opportunity to invite our French neighbors in Guadeloupe and Martinique to join us several times a year.

10. Learning New Things:

Fairs are an excellent opportunity to learn new things. Exhibits and entertainments provide life lessons to all who come to enjoy them each year. It’s always so much fun to look through everything and gain new knowledge.

The above benefits and more shall accrue where we rebuild the culture of the agriculture and industrial fairs on Dominica.

Get Involved & Volunteer:

Get involved with your community. Plan a fair this summer. Let us live in peace, with productivity, by rebuilding our Koudmen culture of cooperative self help. Joining hands to build value in enterprise will also reduce crime as it engenders pride in accomplishment. From parish fairs, to an annual program of agriculture and industrial fairs, we can prosper in our small nation once again.

Time is precious but volunteering your time at the fair is time well spent. Helping out can help you make new acquaintances and discover new opportunities. Rebuilding our culture of fairs will allow us to live better lives and embark upon the golden road of progress, rooted in productivity, self respect, national pride, love of country, community and harmony.

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