Youth opportunities are the key to the Huron County Plowing Match: McNeil
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Officially hosting the 2022 Huron County Plowing Match are Brian and Annette MacKenzie at their Amalgamation Acres farm. On a higher level, Huron County Warden and Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Mayor Glen McNeil is also playing the role of co-host, welcoming competitors and patrons alike to his home municipality for the first traditional, “back to normal” match in three years.
McNeil co-hosted last year’s match as the warden with Ross and Barbara McIntosh and Central Huron Mayor Jim Ginn and McNeil says this year’s match represents so much to him with people being eager to connect socially again after two-and-a-half years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
McNeil says that when he thinks of the Huron County Plowing Match, the first thing that comes to mind for him are the opportunities it makes available for the youth of the county. Whether it’s young plowers in the Sodbusters 4-H Club or contestants in the Queen of the Furrow and Princess competitions, he said the match is unparalleled in developing the county’s young people and giving them a chance to shine.
Over the years, McNeil has seen young participants start in Huron County and work their way up to national success, like Blyth’s Luke Townsend, and others give speeches in hopes of becoming the next Princess or Queen of the Furrow, only to go on to lead extraordinary lives, putting the skills they learned along the way to use in their everyday lives. The development of the county’s youth at the match, he said, really is second to none.
McNeil said the plowing match has always highlighted the importance of agriculture in Huron County and this year’s match is no exception.
He said the county’s agricultural productivity, thanks to its amazing soil and proximity to Lake Huron, makes it a special place to live for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its agricultural value.
McNeil says he and his wife Vanda have been long-time supporters of the plowing match. In fact, they were very involved with the 1999 International Plowing Match, creating a notable produce display that turned out to be one of the highlights of the match for many who attended.
With a return to a more traditional match, which is open to all and includes the Queen of the Furrow and Princess competitions, as well as the awards banquet, all of which were scrapped at last year’s invitation-only match for safety reasons related to the pandemic, McNeil expects a great attendance at this year’s match. People are naturally drawn to social interaction, he said, and they’ve been missing it in recent years, so the match will provide an opportunity for people to see old friends, meet new friends and take in one of the county’s most important events.
He said he’ll always be proud to host the match in Huron County, but after hosting last year in Central Huron, he said he’s particularly proud to be welcoming the match to his home municipality of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh. The MacKenzies, he said, will make for excellent hosts and their site is a great opportunity to show off the beauty of the community, especially due to its proximity to some of the county’s richest Amish and Mennonite communities.
McNeil says he has had the event circled on his calendar for months. He’ll be attending the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference earlier in the week in Ottawa, but will be back in Huron County so he can attend both days. While the schedule is heaviest on Friday, Aug. 19, he says the Junior Day on Aug. 18 is so important and he wants to make sure he’s there.
He says the event is sure to be wonderful, with a great attendance, and he congratulated the Huron County Plowmen’s Association and all its volunteers on their hard work and perseverance in hosting the match and working their way through the COVID-19 pandemic.