It’s the biggest honour George Zimmerman has ever received, being named the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions 2010 volunteer of the year for his longtime involvement with the Interior Provincial Exhibition.
As far as Zimmerman, 75, is concerned, the honour needs to be shared.
“I couldn’t believe it because we’ve got thousands of people that are doing the same thing I’ve been doing, and as far as I’m concerned they all need an award,” said Zimmerman who was given the honour at a recent dinner celebrating the IPE volunteers.
“It was a real surprise and a great honour, one of the biggest honours of my life. It was chosen from right across all of Canada’s fairs and exhibitions.”
Married for 53 years to his wife, Phyllis, the father of three daughters and grandfather to six has been involved with the IPE since 1965 as one of the founders that year of the Vernon Pigeon and Poultry Club.
Zimmerman was in charge of entertainment during the 1970s bringing in a variety of acts ranging from the Utah Clog Dancers to Canadian music icons Wilf Carter, Tommy Hunter, Ian Tyson and Gordon Lightfoot.
He served two different terms as IPE president, in 1983-84 and again in 1996-97.
Recently, Zimmerman has taken on two more volunteer responsibilities at the IPE.
He became in charge of the volunteer rest area. Under his care the area has been in three different locations, most recently in a section of the old horticultural building.
He has arranged for lunch for volunteers the last few years on the Tuesday before the fair starts. Each day of the fair he then heads to Safeway in Vernon at 6:30 a.m. to pick up goodies to keep the volunteers happy for the five days
His other recent volunteer responsibility is as head of the rabbit division.
“The IPE, it’s the same with everybody else volunteering there,” said Zimmerman when asked why he has spent 45 years as an IPE helper.
“At the end of year, you say, ‘Why am I doing this, it’s a lot of work?’ The next year, you’re there just as big as ever. It gets in your blood and it just stays there.”
Also honoured at the IPE volunteer dinner was Dave Jordan, who was named winner of the B.C. Fairs Distinguished Service award.
Jordan’s involvement with the IPE runs the gamut from electrician to always looking for ways to improve the grounds, to running operations on a year-round basis or helping in the kitchen at a food booth.
“At one time, when the IPE was without a general manager, Dave stepped in and voluntarily ran the IPE office for several months, backed by his background of having operated his own company for many years,” said Jordan’s friend, Jack Jamieson, who introduced Jordan at the dinner. “He listened to suggestions and weighed them before taking any action.”
More than 200 people attended the dinner saluting those who make the IPE a success year after year.
“Volunteers are the life blood of the largest agricultural fair in B.C., and number in the hundreds,” said IPE president Shirley Fowler.
“But these two gentlemen, both past presidents and now life members, have been honoured with the highest of awards.”