Wing­field au­thor com­ing to Lis­towel’s Har­vest Din­ner

The Beacon Herald - - LOCAL NEWS - TERRY BRIDGE STAFF RE­PORTER

When Dan Nee­dles first learned he was be­ing named to the Or­der of Canada, he had – not sur­pris­ingly – a funny re­sponse.

“I thought they had the wrong guy,” Nee­dles said with a chuckle over the phone Tues­day from his farm near Colling­wood. “I thought they were looking for my lit­tle brother who teaches high school English. He needs a medal.”

Nee­dles was hon­oured in 2014 for decades of hu­mour-based writ­ing on ru­ral Canada, most no­tably the Wing­field farm se­ries. He will be bring­ing his funny farm ma­te­rial to Perth County on Oct. 21 for the Lis­towel Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety’s an­nual har­vest din­ner. His per­for­mance, called Putting the Magic Back in Farm­ing, will be a roughly 45-minute talk based on his mem­o­ries of the old ru­ral com­mu­nity and how it shaped his views of the world.

“Every­body says that old com­mu­nity has dis­ap­peared. In fact it hasn’t, be­cause the peo­ple are still there,” he said. “Not every­body’s farm­ing, a lot of them are do­ing some­thing else, but we all have a liv­ing mem­ory of the way that neigh­bour­hood used to work.”

Of course, his goal is to elicit laugh­ter.

“Hope­fully make them laugh,” he said. “I’ve been told it’s amus­ing.”

Nee­dles has been a guest of the North Perth town’s agri­cul­tural so­ci­ety in the past – he still has a rose of Sharon bush planted out­side his house from when he led its fair kick­off pa­rade. That was about 25 years ago and the plant is al­most 15 feet high now.

Af­ter a group of the so­ci­ety’s board of di­rec­tors, in­clud­ing past­pres­i­dent Elizabeth John­ston, saw him per­form at a re­cent On­tario As­so­ci­a­tion of Agri­cul­tural So­ci­eties con­ven­tion, they were in­spired to or­ga­nize a re­union.

“That planted the bug in us that maybe it’s time to have Dan come back again,” John­ston said.

Of course Nee­dles, 66, and his fam­ily are well-known in Strat­ford. Wing­field was fea­tured on the Strat­ford Fes­ti­val stage for sev­eral years and his fa­ther, Wil­liam, acted in var­i­ous Fes­ti­val pro­duc­tions from 1953 un­til 2007. Dur­ing his six-decade run, he lived in the city and reg­u­larly housed co-work­ers in his home on the cor­ner of Huron and St. Vin­cent streets.

“It was al­ways full of starv­ing ac­tors,” Nee­dles said. “He never turned away a stray.”

His grand­fa­ther, Ira, was on the Fes­ti­val’s orig­i­nal board of di­rec­tors.

Mean­while, Nee­dles is in the midst of launch­ing a new book. True Con­fes­sions from the Ninth Con­ces­sion was pub­lished in late Au­gust and will be of­fi­cially un­veiled Sun­day at the Duf­ferin County Museum and Archives. It’s a col­lec­tion of his writ­ings from the past three decades – he’s been pub­lished in nu­mer­ous out­lets, in­clud­ing Har­row­smith mag­a­zine and Coun­try Guide – and is based on the farm­ing com­mu­nity he moved into about 30 years ago.

“It tells the story of a fam­ily mak­ing their way through a lot of changes in the coun­try­side, the move from small farm to agribusi­ness and the halls and fair boards all be­ing taken over by peo­ple who have no con­nec­tion to agri­cul­ture,” said Nee­dles, who still lives on the 40-acre farm. “So the neigh­bour­hood evolves into some­thing quite dif­fer­ent than what we re­mem­ber.”

The book, ded­i­cated to for­mer neigh­bour Hugh McKee, is an ex­ten­sion of what he’ll be talk­ing about to the agri­cul­tural so­ci­ety next month.

“I’m re­ally looking for­ward to the Lis­towel crowd, I love a farm crowd,” he said. “So we’ll have fun.”

A to­tal of 300 tick­ets are avail­able for $35 each – they in­clude a din­ner fea­tur­ing lo­cal pro­duce – by call­ing so­ci­ety pres­i­dent Jim Robin­son at 519-291-9536 or at Lis­towel busi­nesses Car­son’s Coun­try Mar­ket and Life’s A Party. The har­vest din­ner, suit­able for all ages, is a fundraiser for the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion. tbridge@post­media.com

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

Dan Nee­dles, seen here with his dog, Dex­ter, will be speak­ing at the Lis­towel Agri­cul­tural So­ci­ety’s har­vest din­ner on Oct. 21.

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