A COMMUNITY FOCUSSED AFFAIR

The Christmas Fair Fund has already got a jumpstart on their 66th year preparations. We chat all things Christmas Fair related to Debbie Finch who got me in the holiday spirit. 

 

TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF? THAT’S ALWAYS A GOOD PLACE TO START.
I grew up on a farm at beautiful Umvoti Mouth on the North Coast in a farming community. My parents were always very concerned about the people who lived in the nearby Groutville area, and my earliest memories are of my father’s tractors going off to build access roads to schools and helping with building projects. In 1952 my mother, Shirley Jex, discovered that a Clinic Sister had been appointed to the Stanger/Groutville district, but she had no vehicle with which to access the area. My mother called together all her friends in the community to raise money to buy a car. They held a Christmas Fair in the Stanger Town Hall, selling home-made cakes, dresses, jerseys and delicately painted glassware, and raised 500 pounds. As they only needed 100 pounds for the car, they started to look for other people who needed assistance, and the Christmas Fair Fund was born. Ruby Stewart held the position of Treasurer for over thirty years, ensuring all the funds were well spent.

THE FAIR HAS BEEN AROUND FOR 66 YEARS THIS YEAR, HOW DO YOU GUYS MANAGE TO KEEP IT CURRENT AND TRENDY?
Keeping it current and trendy is the result of a huge amount of work by our Fair convenors, Sue Rowland and Michelle Blake, who actually spend most of the year researching and scouting for new talent. As the North Coast has attracted many thousands of new residents, so the Fair has attracted many young and talented members, all of whom are entrepreneurs and are full of great ideas. The joy of Christmas Fair is that people find wonderful skills within themselves – Sue and Michelle are a magical team, our chairlady Gaby Lyle infuses us with enthusiasm, we have wonderful young members who work happily with us oldies, and we all love the work we do. As long as there are people who need support, we will continue to raise funds to help.

WHAT CAN ONE EXPECT TO SEE, EXPERIENCE AND BUY AT THE FAIR?
High quality goods supplied and often created by individual stall holders, with the emphasis on South African origin. Our longstanding stallholders whose goods always sell well are always welcomed back, selling lots of Christmas presents for adult and children, high quality bed linen, lots of different jewellery outlets, educational and fun toys, exciting clothing ranges, elegant furnishings, artworks, and our own gorgeous Christmas Fair stall, stocked with our members’ legendary home cooking.

DO YOU GUYS HAVE ANY FAIR TRADITIONS?
Yes, I guess we do have Fair traditions: we always serve a great tea to ensure our shoppers have energy to continue shopping! We have teams who work together to create our décor, we have masses of orders for Gaby Lyle’s Christmas cakes and Maryderne Boyce’s Christmas puddings. We stock our Christmas Fair stall with homemade produce, and we all have a heap of fun doing it all. And, of course, none of it would be possible without the exceptional generosity of Wayne Hulett, owner of Collisheen, who has hosted us for so many years we are now known as the Collisheen Christmas Fair!

WHAT DO YOU ENVISION FOR THE FAIR YEARS FROM NOW?
We envision that the Fair will grow bigger and bigger – our mandate extends from the Tugela to the Tongaat rivers and the needs of the communities are immense. We focus a lot on education, not only on providing facilities for schools and creches and supporting individual kids but also on training teachers, on sustainable enterprises like growing food and baking bread. We are deeply concerned about abused women, and support initiatives to protect them. Christmas Fair members are all voluntary workers, so every cent we raise goes into our projects.

 

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