There are photos aplenty of Charlie Thomson in the archives of The Chilliwack Progress.
There’s a photo of him from 1962, grinning ear-to-ear as a young boy, clutching a Junior Champion Plowman trophy alongside his proud parents. And there’s a photo of him from a decade later, as a young man, being hoisted up by colleagues at CHWK Radio after winning the national plowing championships.
And this weekend, Charlie’s committment to excellence in agriculture will once again be celebrated. He passed away in December, and The Chilliwack Fair Board is commemorating his lifetime commitment to the Fair by holding this weekend’s Open Dairy Show in his honour. It will be a fitting way for those who love the fair to remember Thomson.
He has been a fixture at The Chilliwack Fair since he was a little boy, following in the footsteps of his father, George Thomson. Charlie was born in 1949, growing up on the family farm on Gibson Road. The elder Thomson showed purebred Guernsey cattle at the Chilliwack Fair, had a large dairy business, and later raised cattle.
So it was natural that Charlie would learn about dairy through working on the family farm, and as soon as he was old enough to sit on a tractor he was out there plowing. He joined the Chilliwack 4-H Guernsey Club at age eight or nine, and he and his brother Gordon started showing their 4-H calves at the Fair in the 1960s.
He traveled the country and overseas competing in plowing matches – winning the Canadian Championship several times and the International Championship once — and at home he cultivated The Chilliwack Fair into something he could be proud of.
Even though he held full time jobs off the farm, first at IGA, then CHWK Radio, then as owner and operator of the Husky on Luckakuck Way with his brother, he would get up early for the morning milking and arrive home in the evening to do it again. He was also incredibly interested in breeding to improve the herd, and eventually worked for Foundation Sires and Transworld Genetics.
The Chilliwack Fair Board says Charlie’s passion for the local fair has left an indelible mark upon it. He became a director of the Chilliwack Agricultural Society when he was about 25 years old and served as a director for about 40 years. He was president from 2006 through 2010 and retired from the Board as a life member in 2011.
While on the board, Charlie worked in many areas but was particularly involved with the Dairy Show. He looked after everything from planning the prize book and booking judges to planning the barn layout, digging in water lines, and setting up the stalls. He helped to build it into what was a few years ago the biggest summer show in western Canada.
And when the Fair moved from its old site downtown, where the Landing Leisure and Prospera Centre now sit, to its new home at Heritage Park, Charlie took an active leadership role in making the move a success. From there, he kept involved in the Dairy Show, encouraged public education of agricultural practices, and encouraged young farmers to enter the fair while supporting the “best owned and bred’ classes.
“He always wanted to support and encourage young people to get into farming,” says Nicole Hill, event coordinator for the Fair. “He always had the best looking stall and took pride in it, liked to talk to the public about his cows.”
His love for the dairy industry has been kept alive through the generations after him, she explains. He and his wife, Lorraine, have three sons, Shane, Blair and Clark. Two of Charlie’s sons are active in the dairy industry to this day, and all of the boys showed their own Holstein dairy calves at the Fair as members of the Chilliwack 4-H Holstein Club.
Shane now has his own dairy farm, and will be incorporating his father’s prize Holsteins and Jerseys into his own herd. Clark is involved with 4-H and has children in the Chilliwack 4-H Dairy Club.
And as for the next generation, Shane’s 13-year-old daughter has inherited her grandfather’s passion for cows, and will be in the show ring with some of her grandpa’s animals. Clark’s children will be there showing cattle, as well.
In short, Charlie Thomson did much more for The Chilliwack Fair than could be summarized in one newspaper article. But you may just see the result of his hard work and passion in the hearts and faces of the competitors in the barns and the show rings this weekend.