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Celebrating Old MacDonald’s Barn


From left, Lakeland College President and CEO Alice Wainwright-Stewart and Vermilion Ag Socity President Justin Clark. Photo Angela Mouly

The Vermilion Agricultural Society celebrated 40 years of Old MacDonald’s Barn at its current location on June 7. Community members and dignitaries gathered to appreciate the building’s wide reaching significance, as well as the historical and ongoing partnership between Lakeland College and the Vermilion Ag Society.

Built in 1911, it was one of three barns for the Vermilion Demonstration Farm that had been set up by the province, and later became the centre of the Vermilion School of Agriculture (now Lakeland College) when it opened in 1913. In 1983, changes to the college left some looking for a new home for the barn, and one across the road at the Vermilion Ag Society was selected.

“It was scheduled to be demolished and as executives we wanted to see if we could salvage it,” said Allan Forbes, who was 2nd VP for the Ag Society in 1983.

At 5:30 in the morning he said while in transit, it slid off into the ditch.

“President at the time, Gary Moses, and I came down by 6 a.m. and were told they could have it garbaged by noon. Thinking it wouldn’t be good for his reputation, the driver wanted to see if he could repair it. He supplied all the material for the repair, and later moved the CN station to the park,” said Forbes. “At the time all you could get were #3 shingles and it was full of knots, so we wanted #1. The 1 x 6’s were milled out to fit together, and the beams are 6 x 10 clear fir; you can’t even buy lumber like that.”

It was rebuilt from the loft floor to the ground on the east side, as well as the bottom three feet on the west. Sourcing original shingles and siding they got #1 cedar shingles from Kelowna, and 1 x 6’s milled into drop siding in the St. Paul area.

Just in time for the fair, with almost 800 hours of volunteer work, the structure was complete, but the lumber was too green to paint at the time. Forbes commended Melvin Reid’s work as the construction foreman for the renovations and said, “The barn was the very 1st original building at the college. We wanted to preserve the heritage.”

Cathy Wolters noted that the barn has a Gambrel style roof, and that of the 55 Ag Society and community volunteers, there are only three names left unknown. If anyone knows who Dean Jacula’s hired men, Robert W, and Dale were, they can contact cathy.wolters@lakelandcollege.ca.

Fair-goers from all over the world have commented on the small town fair, and the barn which now annually holds a petting zoo with a variety of animals for giving people the chance to cuddle a young kitten, or find a piece of shade. Used as a common meeting place for generations, it is also recognized on other significant events such as weddings or graduations., and current Vermilion Ag Society President, Justin Clark, noted that legacy saying it will remain a part of his own memories as well as for over 20,000 visitors each year.

The roof is in need of new shingles once again, but Lakeland College President and CEO, Alice Wainwright-Stewart said, “A barn is more than a home for livestock, but the base of operation for agricultural enterprises. For over 100 years we’ve been a part of this community and this barn has been a part since the beginning. This barn represents resilience and strength in our agricultural roots. The shared history and memories yet to be made. Thank you to the Vermilion Ag Society for preserving it.”

Overall the building has remained a sturdy landmark for generations in Vermilion to enjoy.

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