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Changes to fields in Maple Ridge threaten the community home show's future

Ridge Meadows Home Show attracted more than 25,000 people to the three-day event this past weekend. Now organizers are fearing what the show
Ridge Meadows Home Show attracted more than 25,000 people to the three-day event this past weekend. Now organizers are fearing what the show's future holds due to some changes to the site proposed by the City of Maple Ridge.
— image credit: Eric Zimmer/TIMES

A proposal that would wipe out 50 per cent of the Ridge Meadows Home Show parking has come as a blow to organizers of the community’s single largest event.

“I have no idea how to tell people: ‘Hey, half of you have to stay home’,” said Cass Winder, project coordinator for the home show for more than 20 years.

While she was ecstatic that more than 25,000 people turned out for this past weekend’s event, she’s grateful for the summer-like weather, she’s delighted with the constant lineups at the new food truck festival, she’s pleased by the positive reactions to all the staple activities and features, and she’s optimistic about the show’s potential to keep growing, Winder said she is “frustrated” that politics and bureaucracy could spell the demise of this event.

Not through any official channels, Winder learned a while ago that the City of Maple Ridge is planning to install artificial turf on the all-weather fields adjacent to the Albion Fairgrounds and Planet Ice – ultimately chopping their already “insufficient” event parking in half.

And the City, Winder insisted, is doing it without consultation.

“Coming off a banner year, when parking was totally maxed out, we have deep concerns that if the proposal moves forward, we’re going to be hooped.”

It’s standard practice, for a few days of the year, that the home fills all the on-site and venue parking, as well as adjacent grass fields and even the residential subdivision behind the fairgrounds.

While recognizing a dog park and sports fields are important – and  Winder noted the home show society donated “heavily” to the sports field project when they were under construction – all she’s asking for is to be heard.

“We can only hope the City of Maple Ridge is paying attention and takes a long, hard look [at the plan]…” Winder said, adding how this proposal throws the future of the home show into limbo.

This is not the only special event that will be impacted, she explained, pointing to the Country Fest and Caribbean Festival as other large community events drawing huge numbers of spectators to the site.

“It’s frustrating,” Winder said, noting the home show has been in town for more than 40 years and the Country Fest for more than 100.

“I can only hope that their input is being sought, because certainly the home show’s has never has been,” she said.

“Back in the old days when City staff used those little black things on their desks called telephones, we would be kept abreast of plans and in many cases, requested to write an impact statement so that the needs of special events could be taken into consideration.”

She’s hopeful the City will develop its plan for Albion soon, and consider looping event organizers in.

“We plan our event far ahead, and being in limbo is difficult,” Winder said.

“And what we have difficulty with is the lack of notice,” she added, critical about receiving “last-minute” notification of policy changes that required specific types of weights to be added to their large tents, while the City tents set up downtown don’t meet the same tie down requirement.

Winder was equally perplexed to learn of the City’s installation of a traffic circle approaching the sports fields a week before the event, again stunned that the larger community event organizers were never even notified.

“It’s beyond laughable,” she said, noting tandem semi-truck access to the site is now more difficult.

“It’s just one more thing.”

All the frustration of politics and bureaucracy aside, Winder said she had to applaud the event staff and volunteers who “kicked it into high gear” and got the jobs done despite some of these unexpected hurdles.

The show, she said, was without question a success, expressing gratitude to the home show team, the vendors, the sponsors, and most of all the spectators.

“It will take a few days crunching numbers on our exit surveys to determine how many people attended the outdoor events, which will drive that number upward,” she said, but Winder estimated attendance well surpassed the 25,000-mark.

“Because outdoor events are free and not everyone goes to everything, it takes a while to calculate,” she elaborated. “All we know is that we were smokin’ busy and received endless positive comments from visitors and exhibitors alike.”

Ironically, she said, most home show organizers say attendance “dies” when the sun comes out.

“It’s the opposite for us,” Winder said. “Because we have that vibrant line-up of outdoor events, people come out in droves.”

She pointed to “good sized” line ups all three days for the trade show component inside Planet Ice, as well as “mammoth success” noted with the food trucks where vendors were running out of supplies and having to replenish several times over the three days.

“It’s a great problem to have,” Winder said, also noting the popularity of the seniors Neil Diamond tribute show, the Haney Builders birdhouse building, and the BMX show.

“There were line ups everywhere,” she added, noting the event that made people “happiest” seemed to be The TIMES BBQ School, where Meridian Farm Market teamed up with our two chefs to keep tasty samples coming straight off the barbecue to “eager showgoers.”

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