- by Richard Roy, Vermont Beekeepers Association Treasurer
The Tunbridge World’s Fair was held for the 149th time this year after Covid forced its cancelation in 2020. The Fair, which began in 1867, has had its yearly occurrence interrupted only by the two World Wars and the Covid pandemic.
Although the VBA’s presence at the Fair doesn’t date back to the 19th century, it does go back a while. So we were happy when, earlier this year, we learned the 2021 Fair was on. The Fair’s 4 days started as it always does on a Thursday, ten days after Labor Day, this year on September 16th. And at 9 am on the Thursday, the16th, the VBA’s booth was ready for fairgoers.
The VBA’s Tunbridge booth aimed to educate fairgoers about bees and to promote the work of Vermont’s beekeepers. To help people better understand honeybees and beekeeping, the VBA booth included a Langstroth hive with frames, a mannequin dressed from head to toe in a beekeeper’s suit, and some beekeeping equipment. The booth also had several large, eye-catching posters about bees, their life stages, and what they do to produce honey. And there was a video about Vermont beekeeping running on a continuous loop. The most popular item at the booth was the two-frame demonstration hive where fairgoers of all ages spent time looking for the queen, the bee with the red dot. The accompanying pictures give a sense of what fairgoers saw.
In order to pay for the costs of the booth, we sold honey candy, honey stix, and VBA hats, t-shirts, and badges. Most importantly, we sold honey and wax made by Vermont bees and provided by VBA members. This year 11 VBA members offered their honey and wax for sale. Over the 4 days of the Fair, we sold more than 160 pounds of Vermont honey and 131 pounds of Vermont wax. The sellers earned 80% of the price of their honey or wax, with the VBA getting 20%. The sale of the candy, the VBA merchandise, the honey, and the wax enabled us to earn a small profit. We hope the VBA members who offered their honey and wax for sale will do so again next year, and we hope other VBA members will join them.
The first two days of the Fair ran from 9 am to 9 pm, the third day from 9 am to 9:30 pm, and the final day, Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm. These 29 VBA members volunteered to staff the booth in 4-hour shifts: Stuart Alexander, Tony Antonucci, Bianca Braman, Jean Conde, Jon Creighton, Richard Crocker, Chris Fenton, Randy Fleury, Don Gilbert, Kim Greenwood, Peter Hadeka, Connie and Bob Haven, Ron Hernandez, Hugh Huizenga, Laura Johnson, James Key, Bill Mares, John McNeil, Chas Mraz, Ian Orman, Annette Petrocelli, Julie and Dave Reville, Richard Roy, Deborah Rubin, Mary and Bob Stoddard, and David Tremblay.
We thank these members for their generous contribution of time and, especially, their enthusiasm and knowledge in answering fairgoers’ questions and explaining to fairgoers the fascination and the difficulties of beekeeping. We hope these volunteers will sign up to staff the VBA Tunbridge booth again next year, and we hope many other VBA members will join them.
Mary and Bob Stoddard deserve our special thanks for everything they did to make the VBA’s presence at the Fair successful. Mary chaired the Tunbridge committee, which began meeting formally in early June. In the months preceding the Fair, she made sure other committee members were doing what they needed to do and, when the Fair opened, the booth would be fully prepared. During the days of the Fair, Mary and Bob were at the booth both every morning to make sure it and the volunteers were ready and every evening to bring order out of the chaos of 12 hours of volunteers’ selling, explaining, and answering questions. Mary and Bob also did at least one 4-hour shift at the booth and were on call any time help was needed. Without them, there would have been no VBA booth.
Many of the Tunbridge volunteers are regulars, who come back year after year, often requesting the same time slot. They do so because they enjoy being with their fellow beekeeper volunteers and talking with people of all ages about bees and beekeeping. Please consider volunteering at the VBA booth at the 150th Tunbridge World’s Fair, now just 11 months away.