The 2010 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour gala evening and dinner took place June 12 at Geneva Park, near Orillia. As usual, it was a wonderful evening of celebration and humour. This year, the Leacock Associates feted Will Ferguson for his book Beyond Belfast: A 560 Mile Journey Across Northern Ireland on Sore Feet. For Will, this was his third time to accept the award, an honour shared by only three other Canadians – Arthur Black, Eric Nicol and Arthur Black.
The host of this year’s event was Terry Fallis, whose self-published novel The Best Laid Plans won the award two years ago. Terry was a most gracious and humble winner and proved to be an articulate and amusing emcee for the evening’s events.
The evening followed a long-standing format, one which seems to please the crowd who pay for the evening. A cocktail hour in the huge Geneva reception area provided a chance for people to meet up with old and new friends while listening to the local jazz combo Men in Black. The festivities then switched to the dining hall, which was filled to capacity. As has been the case in the past, the multi-course meal provided by the chefs at Geneva Park was outstanding.
During various stages of the meal, several people got up to speak. Board President Michael Hill provided a commentary — some called it a “roast” — about the members of the board. Terry Fallis spoke about his experience with the Leacock Associates and how it literally changed his life. The Mayor of Mariposa, Dan Needles, gave his annual address on the state of the Mariposa nation in his reliably humorous fashion. Marilyn Rumball explained the process of judging the student award and saluted this year’s winner, Joseph Worndl. Garfield Dunlop, the MPP for Simcoe-North, congratulated the winner, as did Bruce Stanton, the Orillia area MP, who was represented by his mother, since he was busy on Parliament Hill. Fred Addis, the curator of the National Leacock Historic Museum Site, brought his greetings as well.
Each year the Leacock dinner is really a celebration and tribute to the winning author.
Will Ferguson was pleased to receive his third medal. And this time, he actually received the medal! On one of the previous occasions Will had won, the medal was stolen from the mail while in transit and only recovered a couple of years later when it was placed on eBay. There’s something Leacockian in that sequence of events.
Will gave a gracious thank-you and acceptance speech and also spoke about his connections with the Leacock Associates and what it meant to him. Will spoke emotionally about the recent passing of his friend, former Leacock Medal winner Paul Quarrington, in January of lung cancer. Will accepted his award and the cheque for $15,000 from Roy D’Souza of the TD Financial Group. The TD connection to the Leacock group remains strong, and the association is very grateful for its generous contribution. The other sponsors of the Leacock award are Thor Motors of Orillia, and Sun Media (via the Orillia Packet and Times).