FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — This year’s 2023 North Peace Fall Fair Pioneer of the Year awards went to long-term volunteers Eleanor Steffensen and Stan and Faye Hetman.
According to the North Peace Fall Fair Society (NPFFS), Steffensen moved to the Peace in 1978, working as a legal assistant for multiple law and notary offices in Fort St. John. In her spare time, she would bake wedding cakes, make wine and raise animals on her property.
Steffensen became a member of the society in 1994 after hearing a call for volunteers on the radio. She began volunteering as the entertainment chairperson before moving into other positions, including secretary and treasurer.
In 1995, Steffensen, along with Cheryl Erickson, came up with the idea of the Pioneer of the Year award, which the Pioneer Inn sponsored for many years.
The NPFFS said Steffensen has donated “countless hours” to the fair and has never hesitated to step into a volunteer role that needed attention.
“She would allocate two weeks of her vacation time to the week leading up to the fair and the week following to work in the office and wrap up the final items before the fair was locked up
for the winter,” the society said in an email.
Steffensen’s husband Ralph was also very involved in the fair, serving as the chairman of horseshoes, organizing the crib tournament, and assisting with fairground maintenance, said the NPFFS.
“The fair has been very fortunate that Eleanor donated her time, talents, and legal knowledge for many years, helping the fair grow and prosper. Her incredible generosity has had a profound and lasting impact on the fair,” the society said.
The second recipients of this year’s Pioneer of the Year award, Stan and Faye Hetman, are second-generation members who have been volunteering with the fall fair for so long that the society isn’t sure what year they actually began working with the NPFFS.
Still, fair meeting minutes from the early 1980s reportedly show the couple attending meetings and being “faithful members” of the society.
“The Hetmans remember working alongside the Byras, Mooneys, Rankins, and Stasiuks during those earlier years,” the NPFFS said.
Stan Hetman was born and raised in North Pine, homesteading there before he moved to Prespatou, while Faye was born and raised in the Stoddart Creek area.
The couple married 50 years ago and have a farm in Rose Prairie, where they’ve grown crops and raised cattle, buffalo, chickens and other livestock over the years.
From 1981-1986 and again in 2000, Faye served as the chairperson of what used to be known as the roots and vegetable booth, which is now referred to as the fruits and vegetable booth. She also used to cook the Saturday night dinners that were served at the fair, which back then were called “Dine in the Pines.”
“Both Stan and Faye were members of the Cattleman’s Association, and they served up what many long time fair goers will remember with fondness – beef on a bun,” the society said.
Stan also helped around the grounds by completing repairs and running errands when needed.
The Hetmens have entered multiple exhibits at the fair over the years, with Stan entering his cows and other livestock and Faye entering her baking. The couple also helped their daughter, Kendra, show her 4-H beef in cattle shows.
Once their granddaughter Alicia was old enough to ride, the couple cheered her on while she competed in the light horse show every year.
“This year, Stan and Faye had the honour of watching their great-grandkids, Jace and Kenzie Copeland, compete in their first light horse competition. As they grow, Stan and Faye will cheer them on as they compete and show their Angus cattle in the beef shows,” the NPFFS said.
The society said despite summer being a busy time of year for farmers, the Hetmans always made sure they stopped by to help others—whether it be at the fair or a neighbour’s property.
Last year’s Pioneer of the Year awards were given to Ron and Noreen Kramer and Gerald and Gail Peters.
Another award given out over the weekend was the 2023 Farm Family of the Year award. Sponsored by Bluewave Energy, the award recognizes the family that has the most entries in both bench exhibits and livestock. This year, the award went to the King Family after they submitted 169 entries in total.
The Kings live and raise cattle in Rose Prairie and had a wide variety of entries, including multiple junior exhibits, flowers, canning, roosters, and photography.
The family’s two girls, Katy and Delaney, also rode in this year’s gymkhana.
“The King Family have been participants in the Fall Fair for many, many years. Rena’s mom Marsha Anderson used to chair the junior exhibits,” the society said.
Last year’s Farm Family of the Year award went to Priscilla and Kurtis Benterud.
The 2023 North Peace Fall Fair ran from August 18th to 20th at the Fall Fairgrounds in Rose Prairie. The event featured live music, animal shows, and tractor pulls.