COCHRANE— The Stockmen’s Memorial Foundation will be going ahead with its annual dinner and auction, keeping the western spirit alive with a COVID-19 friendly twist this year.
The perennial sell-out dinner, which usually seats 200, is unable to go ahead this year with the restrictions in place due to the pandemic, but the board of the Stockmen's Memorial Foundation has found a safe alternative way to celebrate the history of the west.
“We’ve had to kind of modify and think up a new solution that keeps our western roots at top of mind, and allows for a little fellowship and enjoyment,” said Scott Grattidge, executive director of the Stockmen’s Memorial Foundation.
“Our board of directors, we met at one of our meetings and had that discussion, like a lot of organizations, have had this year, on what are we going to do, what things will look like and do we even have a dinner,” he said. “We came up with this idea of a way to, hopefully, get together in a smaller group. So whether that’s just a couple in their own home, or maybe they’ve got some close friends that they’re in a cohort with and they can get together safely, but still enjoy some camaraderie, because everybody loves an auction, especially in the agricultural community.”
Grattidge noted the board of the Stockmen’s Memorial Foundation nearly cancelled the event, but ultimately decided to go ahead with the dinner with the intention to keep the agricultural community alive and intact.
“At first we were definitely thinking, ‘do we just throw in the towel and don’t do anything,’” he said. “When I looked at it I definitely saw an opportunity— The fact that a lot of other organizations were cancelling their events … You can only watch so much Netflix before you want a bit of human interaction, and this is hopefully a way to create a bit of that in a safe way.”
Creating that sense of community is especially important this year, given the circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s kind of the basis of when the west was settled by Europeans. Nobody could do anything on their own, you had to rely on your neighbours and your friends and you needed that community to support you to get through a lot of times,” he said. “I hope this event creates a little bit of community.”
Grattidge said Stockmen's are also using this event to do some philanthropic work for those in agriculture.
“One aspect of the dinners is that you can order one to go, but you can also just donate one. We’ve partnered with the Cochrane Activettes and their food bank to donate meals,” he said. “We’ve got over 100 meals ordered and we’ve got just about 70 meals donated.”
The Cochrane Activettes are donating the meals to individuals and families who they have identified and believe could use a hot meal. The individuals were evaluated on either a financial or mental health basis, Grattidge said. He added the Activettes would be looking to donate the meals specifically to people within the agriculture and farming community.
He noted the social isolation felt by those in the pandemic is elevated by people within the agricultural community, as the nature of the work is often done while isolated in remote spaces.
“I’ve found with COVID that it can create a lot of isolation especially for the rural-ag community,” he said. “We’ve tried to create a way to let them know that people are thinking about them. If they want to donate a meal, we’ve partnered to connect with those people.”
Grattidge said his wife deals with the agriculture community and has noted mental health is a key factor in the overall health of that community.
Factors like changing technology, isolation, increasing debt and shifting industry forces contribute to the pressure a lot of those people feel, and the meal donations are a small way Stockmen’s Memorial Foundation can contribute to their wellbeing, Grattidge said.
“This is one small way that hopefully we can help out and give people a little bit of a bright smile in their day,” he said.
Items up for auction this year include everything from loads of gravel and septic tank cleaning services to brands and new chaps.
“We should have something for everybody.”
The auction itself has been worked to be as fair as possible for every participant, Grattidge said.
The price of each item will go up in $10 increments and after each bid is made there will be a two-minute period where other bidders will be able to make an offer.
Auctions have long been an important cornerstone of the agriculture community.
Many ranchers and farmers visit livestock auctions just to congregate with others in the community, even if they do not intend to make a bid.
“It’s a social event, it’s a show and it’s a form of commerce all in one,” he said. “Auctions are definitely part of the livestock industry heritage.”
If you want to order or donate a meal, the deadline for putting in an order is Saturday (Oct. 31).
To order a meal, call Stockmen’s at 403-932-3782 or email firstname.lastname@example.org/.
Meals will be supplied by local catering company Gourmet to Go and can be picked up Nov. 6 from 1 to 4 p.m. and Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The take-home meals are to be enjoyed on the evening of Nov. 7. The online auction starts on Nov. 5 and closes the evening of Nov. 7.
The items available can be viewed in advance of the auction at the Stockmen’s Bert Sheppard Library at the Cochrane RancheHouse, or online where the auction itself will take place at stockmen.ca/.