Concerns over future of annual Agricultural Field Day put to rest

Wallie Sears
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Above, visitors to a previous Agricultural Field Day on the Doncaster farm enjoy petting some of the livestock on display. Concerns over the future of the popular event have been put to rest.

Any concerns, real or imagined, that the annual Agricultural Field Day might be in jeopardy were dispelled here over the weekend when the owner of the Doncaster Farm on Main Street said it is not for sale and, although no one can predict the future, he suggested it is possible it could go on for up to 20 years.

Ted Doncaster, who became owner in 2008, said his dad asked that the field day be continued after his death for one year and anything after that would be up to the family.

“Here we are, going on the seventh year,” he said, “and going strong.”

He said there had never been plans to sell the entire eight-acre lot but last year a portion was put on the market but he refused an offer to purchase. Since then none of the land has been on the market.

Doncaster said he and his wife, Kelli, made the decision to make the old family home their retirement place.

A 1978 graduate of Tantramar Regional High School, Ted was a fine goalie, playing through the minor system, with the Tantramar Titans and later with the Sackville Combines. Following this he coached minor hockey and at Tantramar and after moving to Saint John took over one of the high school girls’ teams as head coach.

Following graduation he attended the police academy at Holland College and obtained employment with the Saint John city police force. He then returned to Sackville and for the next 22 years patrolled the streets of his hometown.  Following the takeover of municipal policing by the RCMP, Ted joined the Nuclear Response Team at the Point Lepreau nuclear generating plan. He is currently a quality control technician in the plant.

He said no one can predict the future and some day part of the land may be sold and he plans to do some hobby farming following retirement in a few years. In the meantime he says the eight acres is adequate to operate the field day even though it is growing by “leaps and bounds.”  Field Day chair Derrick Acton said recently an estimated 7,500 spectators attended last year’s event, which features many farm related activities as well as a day of popular music.

There had been concerns raised over the availability of the property on an ongoing basis, which made planning a year ahead somewhat risky. There is a two acre lot at the east end of the property that is understood to be for sale but even if moved it is not expected to have a negative impact on the success of the fair.

Field Day chair Derrick Acton said on Monday that sale of the two-acre lot would simply mean some realignment of activities but that the remaining eight acres would be ample. To date the two-acre section has housed the woodsmen’s competitions, sawmill and shingle competitions along with hay pressing and grain threshing.

“This wouldn’t be an issue,” Acton added, as we could easily make the adjustments.”

“The farm part of the Fall Fair means a lot to Kelli and me,” says Doncaster,”and I think I can speak on behalf of my entire family, as well.”

Because of the commitment to allow the field day to be held annually on his land there is no longer any lingering question. But he says when he asks himself should the fair end this year would he be satisfied with what has been accomplished.

“I think I would say ‘yes’.”

 

Doncaster says he has been involved even in the early years when his dad started it as his own show and has continued until today.

“Other family members have done more than me recently because of work commitments, and they deserve more of the credit along with Derrick Acton.”

Acton, who was a close friend of the late Robert (Bud) Doncaster, the founder of the field day, has devoted hundreds of hours and a good deal of talent and leadership in leading the organizing committee each year to keep the legacy of his friend alive.

For his efforts, Acton has been recognized with the title of Sackville Citizen of the Year and he continues to provide the drive and direction for a strong committee as they set about putting what is widely considered to be the largest single event in Sackville together every 12 months.

It has grown in recognition far and wide, attracting those with any interest in agriculture from throughout the Maritimes and even from further afield.

But Doncaster says he has not been involved in any plans that may be submitted to governments regarding the establishment of an historic farm on his land.

“I have explained I am not interested in selling the property but if there is ever a proposal put in front of me then I will make an educated decision.”

Thus, it is expected the popular Sackville Agricultural Field Day will look for even better days ahead with new ideas being considered and with a level of support from town council. It will be held on Saturday, Sept. 20, as a highlight of the annual Sackville Fall Fair.

Also that day the Mount Allison Mounties will play their Homecoming game against the Saint Mary’s Huskies, the team they defeated in the Loney Bowl last fall to win the Atlantic Conference championship.

To date the fall fair has attained a great deal of success based primarily on inspired leadership from a strong committee headed by Acton and there is every indication this will continue.  

Organizations: Holland College, Doncaster Farm, Tantramar Regional High School RCMP

Geographic location: Saint John, Sackville, Tantramar Saint Mary

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