By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - There's a first for everything - and Long Sault scratched a big one of its list at Arnold Bethune Memorial Park on August 8-9.
The small town's big effort to charm guests at the first ever Bun Fest was a success.
Over 1,200 people flocked to the park's large outfield, baseball diamond, and new splash pad to help raise money for the Township of South Stormont's Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
Cornwall resident Laurie Sliter, who moved to the city in June after living in Ingleside for 17 years, was swept up in the long list of food vendors, artisans, exhibitors, crafters, sports activities, and live entertainment.
"It's a wonderful event. I hope it returns," said Sliter. "I'm very anxious to try the food, too."
Before she grabbed some grub with fellow Cornwallite Greg Bridge, a piece of vintage 'spoon ring' jewelry by Casselman's Roselyn McDermott caught her eye.
"Events like this are so important because they get the community together and keep people buying from local and regional artists," said McDermott, who also specializes in custom wood burning.
The recipe for Bun Fest's newfound popularity: organizer David Smith and a small army of 50-plus volunteers.
"It's a family event that has something for all ages" said Smith. "Plus it's a great excuse to get everyone in our community out to the park."
The South Stormont Council candidate previously owned Grumpy's sports bar before pouring his last suds in October 2013.
Smith, who is also the publisher of a newsletter named The Know-It-All, was grateful for the community's support and the amount of sponsorship from local businesses.
The event raised a few thousand dollars for South Stormont's four volunteer fire departments in Newington, Ingleside, St. Andrews, and Long Sault. All proceeds will go towards training costs and new equipment.
"EMS and firefighters are people we don't understand how important they are until we need them," he said. "Since they're volunteers who also have real jobs they've always been special to me and I wanted to do something special back."
Smith credited volunteers for dedicating countless hours to Bun Fest, Royal LePage Performance Realty in Ingleside for their generous support, and Cornwall's Home Depot for hosting a free kids' demo on birdhouses.
"They're like ninjas," Smith joked. "They're at almost every festival or fair at no cost, no matter how small it is, and then they leave without seeking applause."
Other activities at Bun Fest included a kids' zone featuring several inflatable bounce houses conveniently located by the new splash pad, volleyball and 'slot car' tournaments, football and field goal competitions, womens' frisbee toss, and a car and motorcycle Show & Shine.
Local talent was also on display as songbird Grace Willison, South Stormont Mayor Bryan McGillis's band Plan B, and magician Steven Gabriel took the stage.
Smith noted that if the weather is as nice next year, the event will be on its way to becoming a new South Stormont tradition.
"Bun Fest was meant to be an annual event," he said, "and from what I hear and see it will be."