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To put on a corn festival, you need two horses (11 photos)

As every good farmer knows, you have to have a second horse. In case the first one is a wash-out. Organizers of the 36th annual St. Joseph's Island Cornfest brought their backup nag out of the stable this weekend and she proved to be a winner.
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As every good farmer knows, you have to have a second horse.

In case the first one is a wash-out.

Organizers of the 36th annual St. Joseph's Island Cornfest brought their backup nag out of the stable this weekend and she proved to be a winner.

When the fairgrounds were washed away by a steady but mostly light rain throughout Saturday, event co-chairs Jody Wildman and Teresa Caughill called up their second horse about 6 p.m., moving the event to the Legion Hall across the road.

"When the rain really started coming down about 3 p.m., we had a talk with the other organizers and decided to call it off for the outdoor event," said Wildman, who also doubles as the mayor of Richard's Landing.

So the English Sword Dancers never got to perform.

Wildman said that some of the children's entertainers and other daytime acts did perform but the crowds were pretty thin during the day.

By 4 p.m. the wet and dispirited volunteers had all gone home for some warmth and rejuvenation.

At 6 p.m. they started coming back, along with a good-sized crowd, for the entertainment at the Legion Hall.

And the good folk who came out to ride Cornfest's second horse won't soon forget the time they had.

First up in the saddle was a country music group, the Larry Mercey Trio.

Mercey brought along Al Alderson from Shakespeare Ontario and George Lonsbury Jr. from Kitchener, explaining that he'd adopted the two for the evening.

"These are my adopted brothers, No Mercey (gesturing to Al) and Have Mercey (gesturing to George)," Larry told the audience. "Tonight we are the Mercey Brothers."

Old favourites reminiscent of Larry's days with Canadian Country Music Hall of Famers the Mercey Brothers were combined with newer tunes in the same spirit, garnering many a hearty farmer's cheer from the growing crowd at the Legion.

Next up was Switchback.

The Midwest American roots music duo of Martin McCormack and Brian FitzGerald weren't content to let legendary local Fred Kent sit the night out.

Fiddlin' Fred has been playing with the legendary Northernaires for more than 50 years and is best known for his weekly CJIC-TV show, Down Yonder Ranc), which aired from 1956 to 1964.

He and the Northernaires, along with Chris Belsito and the Algoma Traditional Kitchen Party had volunteered to sit the night out due to the shortened show.

But Switchback duo McCormack and FitzGerald would have none of that.

They invited Belsito and Kent to join them on stage but Belsito opted for stage management and camera duties instead.

"Don't worry Fred, we'll hardly ever blindside you with something you've never heard before," McCormack told Kent as they worked their Irish charm on him. "Just come on up with your fiddle and jump in when ever you feel the urge."

To the audience's delight, Kent proved that he was one old horse with more than a few tricks up his sleeve and looked like he was having a mighty fine time at it, too.

McCormack and FitzGerald warmed Kent up with a few old Irish Celtic favorites, then took him on a joy ride through their own original music.

The house was packed by then and the audience adored the special chemistry that Switchback with special guest Fiddlin' Fred Kent exuded.

Last up on the second horse was Lynard Skynard cover band Skinny Leonard.

The six-piece powerhouse screamed into the saddle of the second horse with a vigour that would knock the socks off any filly at a hundred paces.

When the head count was done, the second horse managed to pull the 36th annual Cornfest out of a jam.

"We even managed to make a little off the door," said festival co-chair Wildman, "But we will have to have a close look at what Cornfest will be next year after being rained out two years in a row."

"Even three years ago it was nice here but raining in the Sault so people didn’t come out to the Island," he said. "We'll have to sit down with Council and talk about what we want to do with this festival."