LAWRENCETOWN, NS - There’s a new manager at the Annapolis Valley Exhibition grounds in Lawrencetown these days, but she’s no stranger to what locals consider the best agricultural fair in the province.
Gidget Oxner used to compete in the Main Ring. Now she’s running the place, and that’s fine with Valley Ex board chair Dave Logie who stopped by the exhibition grounds last week.
“There’s several things that she brings to the exhibition,” Logie said. “First is a wealth of knowledge about exhibitions in general, light horse in particular perhaps, but exhibitions in general. And certainly a drive to succeed. The board’s aim is to keep improving the exhibition every year and she certainly shares that philosophy.”
Oxner grew up in Middleton and lived there until 2000. Then she moved to Prince Edward Island for 15 years before moving back to Nova Scotia where she worked in Halifax with the Nova Scotia Equestrian Federation for the last two years.
“Now I’m back in the Valley,” she said. “Back home.”
Oxner replaces long-time Annapolis Valley Exhibition manager Rachel Taylor who stepped down to complete her legal training with a law firm in Kentville.
“I’ve been slowing making my way back because, again, it’s home to me and I wanted to come back,” said Oxner. “My contract ended in Halifax right about the time this opportunity presented itself. Fate.”
Sitting in the manager’s office she can see out her door to the counter where competitors, exhibitors, volunteers, and many others line up to collect passes, or prizes, or talk with exhibition staff.
She used to be on the other side of the counter when she was growing up.
“I rode horses, so I did the Hunter and Jumper disciplines and I’m a certified competition coach specialist for jumper as well,” she said. “Horses are my passion.”
Despite her love of horses, she looks at the exhibition in all its many parts and will treat all parts equally – whether it’s the home crafts, the light horse, or the oxen.
Oxner walked into that office on April 2.
“It’s a whirlwind getting everything ready, I started a little bit late,” she said. “Fortunately we have Lisa (Huyer) who was here last year as a staff member so she’s been a huge help, and the board of directors are a really good support.”
Those board members are from across the Annapolis Valley and possess a depth of knowledge about all things agricultural that Oxner can draw from.
“It’s a very close-knit group,” she said. “We all work really well together and that’s important. Everybody’s positive and wanting to more forward and make it the best we can.”
The first two weeks there was a lot of traffic with people stopping in to say welcome back.
Right now she’s putting the finishing touches on the third annual Redneck Rodeo that runs from July 6 to 8 and brings in big crowds. But the exhibition grounds are busy right through the summer.
“Facilities are being utilized almost every weekend right through to the end of September,” she said. “4-H is in here a lot. We have an ox pull this weekend. There was a horse pull last weekend.”
Then there’s barrel racing, 4-H Boot Camp the last week of July, a poultry show, and of course the week-long Annapolis Valley Exhibition in August.
“It’s just busy and we want to keep it that way,” Oxner said. “It’s a great facility and we want to see it utilized.”