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  • Paul Van Nest


The annual International Plowing Match was held in Frontenac County in 1977 at the farm of Gerald Greenlees and neighbouring farms on Joyceville Road. The organizers approached our club asking us to assume the parking duties as a fundraiser. We were paid on a per-car basis and there were a lot of cars! Both the Kingston and Kingston-Frontenac Clubs jumped at this opportunity to support the event and boost our fundraising efforts.

Anyone around at the time will remember it as the “Mud Match”. It rained for days before the event and it certainly rained during the event. We were parking cars in what was initially a grassy field but, with all that rain, the parking lot became a massive muddy field. It was hard for us to find a solid patch of ground for each car.

The fields for the competition, the tents, and hospitality centres were in an adjacent field. The plowing match village became a quagmire. I remember walking down one of the ‘streets’ when one of my legs sank above my knee in the mud, which filled my rubber boot. I had to be pulled out by others and was forced to leave my boot behind. That rubber boot is still buried in that field somewhere.

Despite the muddy misery, there were happy faces at the food and beer tent – another part of our assignment.

We also helped out with the 1998 International Plowing Match. You can see from this photo of Rotarians Doug McNevin, Jim Robinson, Ray Quenneville, and John Bannister that this match was not a mud match. There was green grass!

The Kingston-Frontenac Rotary Club staffed the beer tent, not an unpleasant assignment, but it was reportedly hard on everybody’s back, drawing beer from the row of taps along the beer truck. Back and forth; left hand to right hand, empty glasses became full glasses and on it went. The only relief was that, when a keg ran dry, it was replaced by someone else. In these events as well as most of our fundraising initiatives, we were assisted by our spouses or partners, and by Friends of Rotary. If we hadn’t their help, I’m sure we would have buckled over.

A similar project was the Antique Car Rally, organized and run by the Rotary Club of Cataraqui-Kingston for two years. It was also a fundraiser, but it was more characterized as a fellowship and public service event with club President Glenda Guindon and Past Presidents Bill Gray and Joe Coley supplying their organizational experience. One lasting memory following the event is that of 20 Rotarians walking side-by-side, a meter apart, picking up every piece of paper and every cigarette butt on the RMC lawn where the event was held. The property was left in pristine condition and certainly gave Rotarians the skills to participate in the community clean-up initiative Pitch In Kingston which took place for many years afterwards.

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