Courtesy Photo

What a week! I cannot believe how well everything came together. I felt so many different feelings and emotions as the week came and went. I was so happy and excited to see everything, and all of our hard work finally come to fruition but then also a bit sad as my reign came to a close. I could not have been more honoured to serve as the 2023 Ontario Queen of the Furrow this past year. A big thank you to Dufferin County for welcoming me with open arms and making me feel at home over the past year. I truly appreciate it.

I headed to bowling green Monday night to get ready for the big week and get settled into my hotel room in Orangeville. I was welcomed with a beautiful glass sign and display that said welcome Ontario Queen of the Furrow contestants in the lobby. I knew it was going to be a great week.

Tuesday morning, I was up bright and early and headed to the plow fields to meet and greet all the plowers and members; and help them get to their designated land areas. I then headed to Tented City to get ready for the opening day parade. I met with Lisa Thompson and the PC party, the Liberal and NDP parties before getting in line for the parade. I rode with Larry Braiden and his team of Clydesdales on his carriage alongside OFA president Peggy Brekveld. We paraded through Tented City and this allowed us to see the grounds and all the excited people as we kicked off the first day of the IPM. I then shared a stage with multiple dignitaries for opening ceremonies and partook in the official cutting of the bailer twine to open the IPM. From there I enjoyed a VIP lunch, met Premier Doug Ford, and got to tour the grounds a bit more. Such a fun day and I couldn’t wait for the rest of the week.

Day 2 kicked off with a morning in the plow fields again, touring the hard work from yesterday and a full day to myself touring Tented City. I got to meet lots of spectators and talk about the Queen of the Furrow program; managed to see the Canadian cowgirls and I got to meet local country singer, yodeller and star Naomi Bristow, which was a huge highlight for me- she is fantastic and so talented! I definitely fan girled a little bit, who wouldn’t! After her show, I caught the end of Abbamanias performance, also fantastic! The queen contestants showed up around supper time and we met with one another and had orientation. We had 12 lovely contestants all eager to participate in this year’s competition.

Day 3 started off nice and early with a VIP breakfast with the vendors in Tented City and then I high tailed it to the plow fields to get the plowers organized again. Once everyone was situated, I met with the queen contestants at the museum of Dufferin, while half of them were doing interviews and the other half were on self guided tours of the museum. Once interviews were all complete, we headed to the plow fields to meet our coaches and do some plowing! This was always my favourite part of the competition as it is very relaxed, and I enjoy operating equipment, so, it comes very natural to me. This year I lucked out and even got to finally drive a John Deere tractor. Special thanks to Brandon Crow for being a great plow coach. It was unique this year as Peel Dufferin queen Mel’s tractor quit on her with one round left. There were five guys trying to figure out how to get it running so she could finish. It ended up a fellow plower grabbed his tractor and tied a rope to her tractor and pulled her around her land so she could finish. Talk about teamwork and learning to go with the flow! A smile never left her face, and she was able to finish. We finished off the day with a visit to Maple Grove Farm for ice cream and then to the Rosemont Firehall for a Mexican dinner and tour of the fire hall.

Day 4 started off with speeches! I had the privilege of being the emcee and all the contestants delivered a carefully crafted speech on agriculture, their community, or the plowing match. I was definitely glad I wasn’t a judge, as every single one of the girls did a fabulous job. We then had a VIP lunch with our families, and I read a poem about being a woman in agriculture. The afternoon was left up to free time with our friends and families in Tented City before we departed for the banquet.

All the hard work from the girls was done and it was up to the judges now. The top five overall was announced first in random order. Elgin, Lambton, Haldimand Oneida, Peel Dufferin and Ottawa Carleton were announced and then all five of the girls had to answer an on-stage impromptu question. This year it was different again and the girls chose a random question from an envelope. They all did great jobs answering on the spot. The top five plowers were then announced, and they were first Elgin, Peel Dufferin, Haldimand Oneida, Lambton and Wellington. Mel from Peel Dufferin was also announced as miss friendship.

The plow awards and live auction were then awarded as the judges made their decision. At this time, I also gave my final farewell speech and was completely humbled at how this week had gone and my experience as Ontario Queen. Any of the girls would make an incredible Ontario Queen and continue to represent this program with so much grace and dignity.

The second runner up was Annie Watson from Elgin; first runner up was Jacquelyn Easson from Haldimand Oneida and to win on home soil was Mel Karpenko from Peel Dufferin. Such a fantastic and exciting night.

The last day of the IPM came and I was exhausted at this point. My final duties included showing Mel around and introducing her to everyone, especially the Kawartha Lakes crew as that is who she will be representing and promoting over the next year. She will do a fantastic job. We both spoke at closing ceremonies and handed out a few awards to the junior plowers. This year there was a speed plowing demo which drew a huge crowd and was so fun to see. The time finally came to hand over the keys to my queen car and it sunk in that my reign was over. I could not have been prouder of everything I’ve accomplished over the year; it’s been a busy year with a plethora of memories, experiences, and connections. I wish Mel all the best in her upcoming year as 2024 Ontario Queen of the Furrow and hope she enjoys it as much as I did.