Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
June 14, 2024
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End of an Era

The Prince Edward District Women's Institute Arts and Crafts show is no more. But could something else take its place?
<p>(Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)</p>
(Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

The Prince Edward District Women’s Institute announced last week that it would no longer run its renowned Arts and Crafts show. It hosted the event every year for over 40 years. 

Since 1989, the dedicated volunteer group’s annual sale has raised funds to create an accessible transit initiative in Prince Edward County.

Typically held on the Thursday preceding the Civic Holiday in August, the craft fair drew over 5,000 patrons from across Ontario, Quebec, and New York state. Artists, producers and growers from Montreal to Manitoba applied every year to be included in the array of vendors. 

Every summer, the Prince Edward Community Centre, Rotary Hall, the Curling Club and the Crystal Palace would be bursting with every type of handmade craft, knick knack, decoration, fabric art and type of jewellery under the sun.

In her letter to the community, Women’s Institute President Kim de Bruin said, “having finally realized the group has accomplished its main goal of contributing to and supporting the successful outcome of Accessible Transportation, the members of the six branches of Prince Edward District Women’s Institute made the difficult decision that the 2023 PEDWI Art & Craft Sale was the last sale.”

“It is now time to move on and create another vision for our organization,” she wrote.

(Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Ms. de Bruin noted the continued support of this community and those beyond was essential to carrying out the Institute’s grand vision. We are “truly grateful to all of you, our vendors, County Council, County staff members, local businesses, other volunteer organizations and our dedicated patrons, who showed up year after year.”

“To our Women’s Institute members, you have shown that when you pour your whole heart into something that you truly believe in, great things can be accomplished,” she added.

Mayor Steve Ferguson noted the enormous contribution to creating an accessible transit system for the County over years of dedicated work.

“The Women’s Institute’s leadership and commitment to accessible transit helped get that system off the ground. Thanks to its donations, totalling more than $150,000 over the years, the municipality was able to steadily grow ridership. Thank you to the Women’s Institute for everything you have done to help people get around the County,” he said.

Mayor Steve Ferguson

Rumblings about whether the Women’s Institute would continue the Arts and Crafts show after 2023 reached the Gazette offices in November. In a vote, the majority of members decided to step away from the show. 

Since 2003, Institute membership has dropped by about 40 per cent — at the same time as the show skyrocketed in popularity. More and more work had to be spread out among a dwindling membership. 

“The age and number of members did play a role. We had a closed ballot vote to make the decision,” said Ms. de Bruin. 

“The total number of current members in Prince Edward district is 60, with six branches functioning at this time. Ten years ago we had around 77 and twenty years ago around 100 members. Many of the current members were members of the district back then as well,” she said.

Mayor Steve Ferguson said he was disappointed to learn that a County tradition of 40 years is coming to an end. He noted the annual Art and Craft Sale was a major attraction, and connected artisans with loyal customers.

“I want to recognize the efforts of the Women’s Institute members and volunteers who made this event such an incredible success every year,” he said.

While the Art and Craft Sale will not continue, the event’s legacy lives on through the County’s public transit system.

Meanwhile, a branch of the local Women’s Institute, in conjunction with another community group, is looking at the possibility of continuing the Picton Art and Craft Sale on August 1. An email to vendors, forwarded to the Gazette, noted a few Institute members and others “are interested in exploring alternatives to continue and enhance the event.” Many of the details, such as the time of year, would remain the same. 

Stay tuned. 

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 10 edition of The Picton Gazette
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