Town and Potato Blossom Festival creating memorial orchard

Eric McCarthy
Published on July 7, 2014

P.E.I. Potato Blossom Festival committee member Tashia Maynard, second right, discusses plans for a children’s memorial orchard in O’Leary with, from left Valene Gallant, Edna Gallant, whose son will be remembered with a tree; and O’Leary councillors Davis Gallant and Blake Adams. The first trees in the Dewar Memorial Children’s Orchard will be planted and dedicated on Saturday, July 19. A new sign will be designed to acknowledge the special orchard.

Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer

O’LEARY -- Last year the P.E.I. Potato Blossom Festival changed up its annual 5 and 10K Spud Run by offering participants the opportunity to run in memory of loved ones who passed away much too early.

That same opportunity is available in this year’s 26th annual Spud Run, but it is what happens after the run that makes the run extra special this time.

The Town of O'Leary and the Potato Blossom Festival are teaming up to open a Dewar Memorial Children’s Orchard. It will be on a parcel of land on the corner of Beechwood Avenue and Barclay Road, land that the late Dr. George Dewar had donated for a community garden. The municipality subsequently named it the Millennium Garden.

As no one in recent years has taken the municipality up on the offer for free gardening space, the municipal council last year held preliminary discussions on turning the land into an orchard. The idea never really grew fruit until this year when Potato Blossom Festival committee member Tashia Maynard proposed turning the land into a children’s memorial orchard.

“Tashia came up with a better idea,” Councillor Blake Adams said of Maynard’s suggestion of a memorial orchard for children who had a strong connection to the O’Leary area. Councillors are now tossing around ideas of adding an arbour and a shaded sitting area, through time. Small plaques will be mounted on stands to identify in whose memory each of the trees is planted.

“Fruit trees will give back,” said Maynard, suggesting community members will be able to pick from the trees. She’s hoping some of the trees being supplied by Kool Breeze Farms, will bear fruit by next year.

The fruit trees will be on site prior to the run and holes will be prepared so that families can plant the trees following the official opening ceremony.

Maynard said organizers had initially thought of planting just 10 fruit trees in year-one of the program, but interest has already well surpassed that number.

“It’s time of taken off on its own with not much publicity,” Maynard remarked. Family members should contact Maynard by July 11 to reserve trees for this year’s planting.

There are some guidelines. Only one tree can be planted per child, and a child is defined, in this case, as a family member under 35 years of age.

As with last year, run participants have the option of running in memory of a loved one. They can indicate on their race bibs in whose memory they are running. The 10 K run will leave at 8 a.m. and the 5K will leave 15 minutes later.  The start and finish for both runs will be at the O’Leary Elementary school. Both courses will twice take participants past the new orchard.

The dedication and tree-planting will immediately follow the run.