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Haying in the 30's smashes expectations

In the telegraph office, people type out their names in Morse code, while at the barbershop, both men and ladies line up for haircuts.
Music from the Haying in the 30’s church drifts down the hill.
Music from the Haying in the 30’s church drifts down the hill.

In the telegraph office, people type out their names in Morse code, while at the barbershop, both men and ladies line up for haircuts. In the school house, children get a lesson in science and take turns being the teacher while the singing from the church on the hill drifts over the farm town below.

In the Brochu homestead, a wood fire in the oven roars on the warm Sunday afternoon, as sisters Shawna and Dee-Anna Brochu bake cookies. It's toasty in the little one-room home, but the Brochus note it's hotter out in the blacksmith shop, where the men are forging, or out in the fields, where the horses and farmers cut hay.

The Brochus are among the hundreds of volunteers that come together for the weekend of Haying in the 30's over the August long weekend, to bring a 1930's farming village to life.

“We used to come to Haying in the 30's as spectators,&” explained Shawna. However, in 2009, they wrote to event founder Edgar Corbiere, suggesting that it would be great to show “the women's side of work&” in the 1930's.

“He gave us a phone call - he said, ‘We moved a 100-year-old trapping cabin in for you girls, you can just move in.'&”

So it was that the Brochus have been moving into the cabin for this weekend for the past eight years, in what used to make up their grandparents' Louis and Violet Brochu's homestead. Their father sold the land to the County of St. Paul, which donated the land back to Haying in the 30's, and according to the two sisters, their father is sure the new use would have pleased homesteader Louis Brochu.

“He just walks around, he gives this little smirk, shakes his head, and he says (Louis) would have been amazed that his homestead is now a fairground,&” said Shawna.

Martin Naundorf, president of Haying in the 30's, said that 250 to 300 people volunteered over the weekend to pull everything off.

With all those helping hands, things ran smoothly, with 1,850 people lining up for dinner on Saturday evening, getting served in just under an hour.

Naundorf estimated 4,500 people came out, with donations getting up to $233,600 from the weekend and more donations yet to be tallied. Altogether with donations from throughout the year, the organization could collect nearly half a million dollars in 2017, a fact Naundorf called “amazing.&”

“Considering the economy, we never expected to hit that number,&” he said. Last year, by the end of the weekend, there had been $175,000 donated, a drop from previous years. This year, donations were back up and even more than collected in 2014, which came as a pleasant surprise to organizers.

“I'm extremely happy with how everything went. I had great support from the board and volunteers in my first kick at the kitty,&” said Naundorf, explaining this is his first year as president.

He personally knows what the organization means to people, as five years ago, he lost his wife to cancer and that the couple had received support. It's that giving nature that brings so many people to volunteer their time and efforts for Haying in the 30's.

“To me, it means people care about each other and want to help each other,&” he said.

The allure of the event draws visitors from across Alberta, and this year, several visitors came by from as far as Montana, New Brunswick and even Florida.

“There was a lot of first-time people, which is really encouraging. It's getting to be pretty well-known,&” he said, adding this just fuels the plans for next year, with more additions and demonstrations added to the event all the time. “I don't think we're going to stop.&”

In 18 years, nearly 6,000 people have been helped by the organization, receiving funds to support them through battles with cancer. And every little bit helps.

“I had friends and family that had been through cancer - so I decided to help other people,&” explained 11-year-old Peyton deMoissac, on why she donated.

This year, for her birthday in June, in lieu of presents, Peyton collected donations for the cancer support organization, collecting about $140 which she delivered in person on Sunday.

Wouldn't she rather have spent the money on herself? She doesn't think so, answering, “I have lots of things.&”

She thinks those friends and family of hers that have been through cancer would have liked this use of her birthday funds.

“It felt really good.&”