It’s not about the ribbons. But if it were, Norma Harisch would be happy because there are lots of them. “Highest points,” “Overall Winner”… and the list goes on. This happens pretty much every year at the Salmon Arm Fair.
It’s not about the competition but about supporting the fair and adding a little excitement to the experience. Her husband Bill, children and grandchildren are all enthusiastic exhibitors too.
“It makes going to the fair more fun,” says Norma. “On Friday we look at the family entries and on Saturday we look at the entire community’s entries. We go in every barn, pet all the goats. For dinner we have a 4-H burger, we support them. We spend the whole weekend at the fair.”
As a seasoned fair exhibitor, Norma knows she has to plan ahead for some of the entries.
“As I’m canning peaches I’ll do some jars quickly and some I’ll take the time to layer nicely. Then I put an “f” on it for the fair and it goes in a separate box.”
The three days before the fair are very busy. On Tuesday the sewing is ironed, hung, and labelled. Wednesday morning is designated for her baking entries, ranging from ginger snaps to dinner rolls.
“Bill baked his stuff as well so it was busy in the kitchen.”
After those are delivered to the fair (three loads including big plants, potted herbs, fruit and vegetables), preparations for the flower entries begin. All surfaces in the kitchen are full of vases and tags laid out. Norma enters every single rose category as well as other flowers so there is a lot of work to do.
“It’s really hard to get all the flowers in on time,” she says. “On Thursday morning I was out at 5 a.m.”
It’s a family tradition that goes back many years. Norma comes from the Peterson family: “My dad entered photos, fruit, and vegetables. My uncle still enters, my cousins, my aunt…”
Norma’s grandfather, Ed Peterson, came to Salmon Arm in 1911. Originally from Sweden he travelled around North America before settling here. He was a farmer and eventually had an 80-acre farm. He and his five sons had, among other ventures, an impressive fruit-growing business.
“My mom (Betty) was from Scotland. Her sisters came over as war brides. She came out to visit them and met my dad (Floyd).”
Norma got her talent for growing things, especially flowers, from her father. He loved roses, dahlias, gladiolas, and orchids. Roses are Norma’s focus but that wasn’t always the case.
“I wasn’t interested in roses but my dad had 60 and he encouraged me. I thought, ‘I wouldn’t mind a few roses…’” Before long her thinking had changed to: “This rose is beautiful, I have to have it.”
Now she has over 10 pages of maps to help her keep track of all the different roses. She planted a special rose for each of her family members, whether it’s a rose of the same name or some trait that she remembers them by. She points to one called “generous gardener”and says that one was planted in honour of her father. She is also a generous gardener and enjoys sharing the beauty. Local seniors come by in buses, cars slow down and sometimes people ask if they can wander around. That makes Norma smile.
“I planted them so people could see them. There’s no point doing all this just for me.”