Interview with Stuart Webster

After years of quiet planning to celebrate the Fair’s 175th anniversary, the new Volunteer Park in front of the fairgrounds is taking shape this summer. You may be wondering who is behind this beautiful project; it is our pleasure to introduce you to Stuart Webster, landscape designer of Volunteer Park.

His name might sound familiar to many Ayer’s Cliff people… and there’s a reason why! : « I was born in Sherbrooke and raised in the town of Massawippi until age 8 when we moved to Montreal during the week, but Massawippi has always been home. My wife and I recently moved back! My grandparents bought a farm in Massawippi in 1940 and my father actively farmed it and had a wonderful herd of Jerseys that we showed at the Fair each year. Being in the show barns and watching our Jersey cows get prepped for showing is one of my favorite memories of the Fair. I always wanted to sleep over one night with our herdsman in the straw…sadly my parents never let me! »

Stuart is extremely talented and he has an impressive background : « I have a bachelor of arts in Art history from Princeton University and my second degree was in garden Design from the Inchbald School of Design in London, England. I founded my landscape architecture firm 25 years ago and we now design, build and maintain primarily residential properties in and around Montreal. »

For the design of the Volunteer Park, Stuart Webster was inspired by the event, the community but also of its history and its surroundings:
« We were inspired by the rows of crops you see running across the fields in the area (which is reflected in the rows of ornamental grasses). We also were inspired by the natural rolling hills and topography of the eastern townships which is reflected in the long curving path that cuts across the gardens (the outline of a rolling hill). Lastly we were inspired by the sense of community and the farmers market which also happens at the fairgrounds so we have blueberries in the back of the park and the children from the schools planted sunflower seeds earlier this spring which we look forward to seeing in the late summer. We were also inspired by the wonderful sculpture by Satoshi Saito. His sculpture is the highlight of the design and we wanted our landscape not to compete with his pure lines. I think for all of us involved this really was about community. We wanted to celebrate community engagement, volunteerism and we wanted to bring locals together to create, plant, water, learn, grow, contribute etc…and it has been a great success on all end! »

The volunteers also have a very important meaning in our new park, and Webster keep them a very important spot: The ornamental grasses in rows is to depict the rows of crops we see all over the farmland. We chose Schizachyrium ‘Standing Ovation’ for its silvery colour, fall colour and for the name…as all the volunteers over the last 175 years deserve a standing ovation!

When we ask him how he would describes the final result of Volunteer Park and how he hopes people will feel about the space, his answers brings an instant smile to our face: « I hope it will be an inviting space which people will circulate in and stop to reflect on the community and the Fair. I also picture children running around the rows like a maze and laughing a giggling as they go! »

Thank you, Stuart Webster, for your awesome work. And a very, very warm thanks to all our volunteers of the pass 175 years!

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