2023 Community Appreciation Award
The Comber Agricultural Society would like to recognize the many contributions made to our community by Mark and Linda McKinlay. Although they always worked outside the home, they have enjoyed many experiences volunteering with various local organizations. As the parents of four children, they were often drawn to working with youth. Between the two of them, they participated in the Comber IODE, the Comber Fire Department, Brownies, Boy Scouts, Softball Coaches, the PTA at Centennial School, and their Church, St Andrews United Church. During this time, Linda held public office as a Councillor for Tilbury West, and until recently, the Municipality of Lakeshore. She was also on the Board of Directors for the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority serving several years as Chairman. Mark has spent many years on the Comber and District Historical Society Board with 10 years as President. In recent years, both Mark and Linda have been recognized for their contributions and commitment to their community, both receiving the “Senior of the Year” award from The Good Neighbour Club in Belle River and Area, and Mark was honoured to receive the Community Heritage Medal from the Department of History at the University of Windsor for his work with the Comber Museum.
Like many families in the Comber area, The Mckinlays have always considered the Fair to be the highlight of the summer. They have spent 25 years working together on the Board of the Comber Agricultural Society, contributing to many different committees. Linda doesn’t even remember how they joined, but once they did, it was something they looked forward to each year. Mark spent many years working the grounds, assisting the treasurer, managing the money at the gates, judging various events and all the while – taking hundreds of pictures for the Fair board. Meanwhile, Linda spent most of her time organizing the entertainment- hosting events on stage, booking musical acts for the evening shows, or judging the talent contest- even representing the Comber Fair as a judge at the “Rise 2 Fame Youth Talent Search” at the Western Fair. Together, this couple spent many years booking the exhibitor and vendor booths, and at one point, had 40 booths set up. As the years passed, they had the opportunity to make this a family tradition, with their now-grown children involved in volunteering at the fair.
Their experiences at the fair have given the couple many special memories. With her history as a professional singer, Linda loved working with the entertainment, and in particular remembers the first time the fair had an Elvis Impersonator. The grounds and the bleachers were packed, and the crowd loved him…and he sure loved the crowd! There was another year that the fair had a hypnotist on stage, and the audience was treated to a show of their friends and neighbours clucking like chickens! Mark discovered his silly side and was surprised at how much he enjoyed being a clown in a couple of the parades. He also fondly remembers the year that every available flagpole had a Canadian flag hanging from it. He said it just hit him when he walked through the gate, “What a terrific fair this little town has.”
Mark and Linda feel they have gained so much from their time volunteering in the community, and in particular with the Comber Fair. Working together with others to organize such a successful, long-standing community event has truly been a source of joy for them. They hope that others will consider reaching out to continue this incredible tradition. They truly believe that it is events like the Comber Fair that make this village such a special place to live.