We at the Markham Fair were lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down and interview Laura Empringham, the 2017 Head Ambassador for the Markham Fair. Laura has recently graduated from a sister college of the University of Guelph with a degree in agricultural studies, and is spending this summer working closely with the Markham Fair.

Why did you decide to enter the contest for becoming a Markham Fair Ambassador?

My whole family has been involved in the Fair for a long time. My grandpa was President before, and my mom was President in 2003. I’ve been on a committee since I was 12. The people I grew up with have all been ambassadors, and I’ve always looked up to them.  Basically I’ve been around the Fair my whole life, so this is something I always wanted to do.

What’s the Ambassador competition like?

During the Fair, we go out among the crowds and are judged on how we interact with everyone. Last year, I was showcasing my calf, so I did not get to do the interaction part. Fun fact: I actually showcase my calf with Meghan, who is the owner of the famous ribbon quilt!* For the interview portion, we answer questions based on the Fair, agriculture, and common knowledge. Then the actual competition occurs, where we give speeches we prepared beforehand and answer a random question that was drawn from a hat. Then they determine the winner! It was really nerve-wracking, especially because I had decided to enter the contest only a week before, and I was not expecting to win at all. As an ambassador, there are several positions: Head Ambassador and one or two Side Ambassadors. If you’re a side ambassador, you can run again, but if you are Head Ambassador, you can only fulfill the position once. After this, I’m done, which is kind of sad, but I’m glad to have done my part. I’ve actually never been Side Ambassador myself; this was my first year trying out for the role. I’m happy that I’m good friends with the other ambassadors though.

What are some of your duties as a Markham Fair ambassador?

You are expected to be at the Fair itself for all four days, handing out ribbons and giving out awards. After that, there’s the Fair Banquet in November, where I had to give a speech about my time at the Fair with the Side Ambassadors. After the Fair, we also attend 2 Santa Claus parades in Markham and Stouffville. In February, there’s the OAAS Convention, which is a major three-day meeting for all fairs in Ontario. We attended seminars and meet ambassadors from other fairs across Ontario. Going there is interesting because you realize that many other Ontario fairs look up to us and the CNE. It’s nice to know that we’re up there. In the Spring, we attend the Unionville Parade. The biggest commitment, however, is the CNE. We compete there in August for three days, and we do pretty much the exact same thing as with Markham Fair, except that I’m competing for the title of Ambassador of the Fairs against 60-70 other ambassadors. I’m really nervous for it! Markham has never won, but hopefully this year will be it!

What does being the ambassador for the Markham Fair mean to you?

Being an ambassador, you get the chance to be a role model for younger kids. I babysat some of the kids who go to the Fair now, and I’m friends with many of them as well. It’s nice that I get the chance to be the role model that I used to look up to. Also, I know most of the people who are on the committee at the Fair, and they’ve seen me grow up. It’s like, “Hey, I’ve made it!”

What are some challenges you have encountered during your time as a Markham Fair ambassador?

The biggest challenge is balancing my social life, work, and school work from when I was still in school. University of Guelph has a sister college in Sarnia, and I got a diploma for agriculture. I couldn’t come back for the Unionville Parade, especially because I was so far away, but the Fair was very accommodating.

What is your favorite memory thus far as an ambassador?

The Markham Fair itself was my favourite event, because it’s like my second home. I love representing Markham, and seeing all the people I’ve grown up with. They’re all so supportive of me and my role as Ambassador.

What else do you hope to achieve during your time as ambassador?

One of the benefits of being Ambassador is the networking possibilities! I want to meet more people and ambassadors from the Convention and the CNE competition. Especially to boost my degree with agriculture, it’s a great opportunity. I really hope to meet more people from all the fairs in the future!

Thanks so much to Laura for stopping by for this interview! Best wishes in all your future endeavours as the Markham Fair Ambassador, and good luck especially with the CNE ambassador competition!

*For more information on Meghan’s ribbon quilt, check out our other blog post at https://www.markhamfair.ca/interview-meghans-ribbon-quilt-by-stefy-desouza

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.