Larry Mercey Trio to perform at fundraising concert in Harriston

Oct. 1 show at local church to benefit Canadian Foodgrains Bank

HARRISTON – The Larry Mercey Trio and Leo Stock will perform at a fundraising concert in support of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank hosted by the Harriston Foodgrains Growing Project.

The Oct. 1 concert will be held at Knox-Calvin Presbyterian Church in Harriston beginning at 2pm.

Founded in 1983, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2023. The CFB was initially formed by the Mennonite Central Committee with encouragement from the Canadian government. Other churches were invited to join and the organization now includes 15 member churches and church agencies working together toward a goal of ending world hunger.

Growing projects began in 1989 when farmers, individuals, businesses, churches and other interest parties came together to grow crops. After the crops are harvested and sold on the Canadian market, the proceeds are used by CFB members in their work toward ending hunger.

The vision continues to thrive in over 200 active community growing projects across Canada, many that have lasted decades and spanned generations.

The Harriston Foodgrains Growing Project began in 1997 and this year marks the 25 years of work by the local committee, with several of the original volunteers still involved with the project.      

Land for the Harriston project was originally rented from the Ziegler, Von Westerholt and Stemmler families. Since 2007 the local project has used about 60 acres of land contributed by Jim and June Macdonald, with rotation of wheat, corn, soybeans and hay. 

Local churches involved include Harriston United Church, Knox-Calvin Presbyterian Church and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Neustadt, with Royal York Road United Church, Toronto, as the group’s urban partner since 2014. Over the years other churches have included Conn and Cedarville United Churches, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, St. James Lauderbach Lutheran Church, and Islington United Church, Toronto.   

Since its inception, the Harriston project has contributed over $500,000 to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. With the federal government matching on a four-to-one basis, the Harriston project has helped raise more than $2 million to bring food to hungry people in other countries. While the sale of crops provides the bulk of the funds forwarded to Canadian Foodgrains each year, money also comes from dinners, concerts and other fundraisers.

This year’s fall wheat crop has already been harvested and set to be sold to raise cash for this year’s donation. Alan Lee, one of the local organizers said the Harriston project committee wishes to thank Zemmelink Farms Harriston Agromart and Rolymar Farms for providing equipment and fertilizer and Kindred Credit Union for its support.

Lee said the idea to book Mercey’s band for the local show came from another committee member, John Crispin, who had seen the group perform recently in Elmira.

“He thought it would be a good group to have for a fundraiser,” Lee notes.

 The Larry Mercey Trio was formed in 2004 by Canadian music icon Larry Mercy after his brothers decided to no longer perform as The Mercey Brothers following a career spanning three decades.

 Mercey started his career on the CKNX Barn Dance, broadcasting from Wingham in 1956. He then formed The Mercey Brothers who were inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame after recording 17 albums and releasing about 50 singles. The group also earned seven Juno awards and numerous other accolades.

The Larry Mercey Trio consists of Mercey, guitarist George Lonsbury and bass player Al Alderson. The group’s current CD It Ain’t Over Yet includes the popular single On My Father’s Side.

Originally from Hanover, Mercey resides these days in Ilderton. The trio, he said, performs eight or 10 shows a year.

In a telephone interview Mercey said the Harriston show will feature some classic country music and “a little bit of gospel” as well as 10 or 12 Mercey Brothers tunes.

“It’s quite a variety of material, really.”

The show will also feature step dancer and fiddler Leo Stock, an 18-year-old fiddler and step dancer from Stratford. Stock won the 2022 Open Step Dancing Championship at the Ontario Open Fiddle and Step Dance Contest, as well as the Canadian Open Championship. 

Fiddler and step dancer Leo Stock will also perform. Submitted photos

“It makes our show different because it’s not just us singing. Leo does a little set with us playing for him,” notes Mercey.

The veteran musician is looking forward to performing in the area where he got his start. He says today’s young musicians don’t benefit from the type of exposure offered by local radio and television programming that was available in the early days.

“I was 16 years old when I started working on the CKNX barn dance, so we were very lucky. When CKNX got TV we were right on television,” he recalls. 

“Young kids don’t have opportunities like that today – there’s no Tommy Hunter Show, or any of the variety shows like that.”

At 83, Mercey says he’s considering slowing down in terms of his performance schedule but isn’t ready to pack it in altogether.

“I enjoy playing with the fellas I play with,” he notes.

Mercey recently detailed his lengthy career in an autobiography, Have Mercey, My First 60 Years Making Music.

He says the 420-page publication would be of interest to “anyone who would like to know what the life of a country musician was like.”

The book is available on Kindle Books, or by emailing:

Tickets for the Oct. 1 show in Harriston cost $30 and are available at Home Hardware stores in Harriston, Palmerston and Mount Forest or by calling John Crispin, 519-323-2700, or Allan Lee, 519-321-9635.