Four generations of our family have been attending and showing in the Coombs Fall Fair, since the early 1960s.
We have ridden in the horse show, paraded our dogs, made jellies, floral arrangements, embroidered pillows, and entered photographs, vegetables, and flowers. Oh, and never, ever won the Ladies’ Nail Driving Competition.
Had there ever been a category for “Best Picnic in the Boot of a Range Rover,” surely my parents, Gordon and Jeannie Southam, would have won.
The Coombs Fair was the highlight of the summer for their friends from Savary Island and Vancouver, who begged and bartered to stay with us at Qualicum Beach, just so they could consume the picnic feast of Scotch Eggs, cucumber sandwiches, rare roast beef sandwiches, Pimm’s and Champagne.
While Mum’s no-pectin jellies tended to come in second place, she was a gifted flower arranger — the smaller the arrangement the better. She would spend days practising, trying to delicately pile in one-inch high wisps of baby’s breath, two single blooms of phlox, a couple of strands of blue lobelia, a tiny miniature pale pink rose, and a few fronds of two-inch high ferns. The container would be a two-inch high miniature teacup, or a doll-sized milk jug. One year Mum won the miniature arrangement with a silver thimble as a container.
For years I used to watch her. Both her frustration and joy were evident. She was competitive, but she also loved creating something so tiny. Mum loved her garden too.
We grew corn, carrots, tomatoes, peas, potatoes, and various berries. But it was the hybrid tea roses that were the stars of the garden. For decades, a competition developed between Mum and Nan Nicolls over who would win — or come second — in the Hybrid Tea Rose class. Over the years they would trade first prize, and bragging rights would last a whole year until the other would win it back the following year.
Mum died over a decade ago. I have tried to emulate her teachings, especially in the Coombs flower arranging classes, winning a few over the past five years. Well, until they decided to eliminate them a few years back, apparently because the same people kept winning them.
Nan Nicolls and I now compete for the best Hybrid Tea Rose, and yes — we trade first prize back and forth most years.
My most favourite rosette was won last year, in a new class called “Garden Hat”. The featured flower in 2018 was Sweet Pea, and the featured animal was a goose. My straw garden hat was poked and prodded with multi-coloured sweet peas from the garden, and goose feathers gathered from Morningstar golf course. Honestly? The hat looked terrible.
It was a complete mess. Tall brown feathers poking out in all directions, with limp delicate blossoms drooping all over the place. But I won the rosette because there was only one entry in the class.
— Submitted by Nancy Southam