Serayah Pawluski holds on to a chicken flapping its wings during set up for the 118th annual Interior Provincial Exhibition Tuesday, Aug. 29. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

Serayah Pawluski holds on to a chicken flapping its wings during set up for the 118th annual Interior Provincial Exhibition Tuesday, Aug. 29. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

Families and crews gearing up for IPE

Crews work tirelessly to prepare for the 118th annual IPE, and the excitement is palpable

The metallic clang of iron on iron rings through the air Tuesday morning as crews work tirelessly on the vibrant green, blue and purple iron Goliaths.

When West Coast Amusements finishes their creations, kids of all ages will fill the midway, queuing for the lineup of coasters and rides on offer at the 118th annual Interior Provincial Exhibition, which begins today.

“It’s a nice place,” Bruce Fraser, of West Coast Amusements, says as he pauses from building ride tracks and looks up, a true ear-to-ear smile covering his face. “I enjoy working with the kids.”

Fraser, who lives in Armstrong, has worked the IPE with West Coast Amusements for the past three years and always enjoys the exhibition.

He kneels down and begins hammering the tracks in place. There was a lot of work to be done before the IPE opened.

“It’s just been a flurry of activity,” says IPE general manager Yvonne Paulson. “It looks like a total beehive.”

Golf carts race around the exhibition grounds, carting volunteers, workers, and general crew members from building to building.

Jim Perry, a volunteer with the Vernon Pigeon and Poultry Club, leans next to his silver pickup truck parked outside the old poultry building, while Sarah Pawluski and her children Rhiley, Tyrhel, Sage and Serayah unload hens and roosters from their carts.

A vehicle cruises up to Perry and Pawluski, the driver unlocks the door to the poultry building, and with a thank-you from Perry, it drives off in a hurry to help out the other exhibitors.

Perry and the Pawluskis enter the building, and the kids work quickly with the help of their mother to ready the cages for the animals. Tyhrel hauls a jug of water through the rows of cages, stopping at each to fill a plastic cup with drinking water for the birds. Meanwhile, Sarah, Sage and Serayah open the transport carriers and Rhiley puts the animals in their new IPE homes.

The family works as a well-oiled machine, with Rhiley calling off names and his siblings following suit. Soon, all the hens and roosters are unloaded.

While the Pawluskis prepare the animals, Perry is at work with general set-up in the barn’s entrance.

“The best thing I like about IPE is obviously the birds — I come to see them,” Perry says. “We have probably our largest show yet. I’m looking forward to having people come in and get interested in poultry, and pigeons in particular.”

Adjacent to the poultry barn and midway is the immense cattle barn. Ranchers from across the Interior pile in, lining up their cattle and making them comfortable for the show.

Locals Jim McAvoy and his daughter Allyson wield pitchforks and spread hay for the cows. Allyson unties a calf from its spot in the lineup and pushes and pulls to move the cattle before taking it for a walk around the barn.

Across from the McAvoys, Brad Carlson of Sunnyhome Farms in Salmon Arm walks up and down his line of cattle with coffee in hand, ensuring everything is as it should be.

“We’ve been coming for the better part of 10 years,” Carlson says as he steps out of the barn into the warm morning sun. “Everybody here is part of the club. We all know each other well. It’s competitive, but we have fun at the same time.”

Outside the barn, Kelsey Reuter, a new member of the IPE ground crew, sweeps away the dirt and hay that has amalgamated.

“It’s been very busy,” she says, adding that she is excited for her first ever IPE.

The sun rises high in the sky as families, crews and vendors come together to prepare for the 118th annual IPE, and the excitement and anticipation is palpable.

Armed with a board of volunteers, Paulson and her team work year-round to prepare for the IPE. This year marks Canada’s sesquicentennial, and Paulson felt it important to commemorate the nation’s birthday with a special celebration Thursday.

“We’re really looking forward to an awesome 118th IPE and looking forward to celebrating Canada’s birthday.”

By Sunday’s close, Paulson is anticipating this year’s attendance to exceed last year’s 150,000 based on advance ticket sales and the warm weather on the horizon.

“I hope we have enough beer,” Paulson laughs.