Renfrew -- Every year the Renfrew Agricultural Society (RAS) hosts an appreciation dinner for all the volunteers who spend countless hours helping to stage the annual Renfrew Fair. It is a way for the Society’s Board of Directors to extend a heartfelt thank you for their efforts.
What has also become a tradition at the annual dinner is the presentation of a special Service Award to one or more members that recognizes not only their work with the fair, but it usually acknowledges the efforts of local residents to other aspects of agricultural life in the Ottawa Valley.
It did not take long to figure out who might be this year’s recipient as the middle table in front of the Armouries main stage was filled with 13 members of the Briscoe family. There would have been more if not for a hockey tournament taking place.
After Jesse Welch and crew members from the Backyard Gourmet cleared the tables, outgoing RAS President Paul Neville invited Dennis Briscoe to the stage to receive his award.
“I am encouraged not only by Dennis’ longtime commitment to farming, but I think the future of volunteers for the fair looks pretty good based on how many young people are seated with Dennis and Dianne,” he said.
Family Farming History
A lifelong resident of Admaston/Bromley Township, Mr. Briscoe is one of many generational farming families that have seen their share of both good times and bad times in their industry.
In the 1940s, Mr. Briscoe’s parents lost an entire grade Holstein herd because of Brucellosis, an infectious disease that spreads rapidly and causes abortions in unvaccinated cattle. His parents then purchased one purebred vaccinated cow, and she had nine daughters.
Although a huge financial setback, the family bounced back and the cow that gave birth to nine daughters was the basis of today’s Donden Farms herd. Donden is a combination of Dennis’s name and his late sister, Donna.
However, on this night Mr. Briscoe wanted to talk to the Leader about why his family was out with him at the Armouries.
“The Renfrew Fair has been a big part of our life for decades and for me, it was a special place to spend my early years,” he said. “Growing up in the 1950s, there wasn’t time or money for family vacations. Yet, my parents always took us to the fair. By showing Holsteins there for 30 years, it sure gave Donden Farms exposure and that resulted in many successful cattle sales.
However, there was one particular moment while attending the fair that Mr. Briscoe said stands out far ahead of several special moments.
“My most rewarding memory at the fair was outside the show ring where I was introduced to an attractive young lady by Mac Pender,” he recalled. “That young lady is Dianne and we held our wedding reception in the Armouries. Dianne quickly supported my work at the fair and she still helps out there.”
Our family of three sons: Glen, Randy and Kevin all contributed to the farm as we all worked together for years in the dairy barn and fields. They learned early to do things by doing.”
It didn’t take long for Mr. Briscoe to work his way up the Renfrew Fair ladder and catch the eyes of some of the veteran fair volunteers and he was approached to take on greater responsibility.
“When approached to be a director I was happy to accept and it helped to repay favours that I owed the fair, “he joked. “I was a director 20 years and served as president for two years. That was time well spent and I enjoyed working with a wonderful group.”
It certainly has come full circle for Mr. Briscoe and he and his wife are confident they will come out for one specific event that is already circled on their calendar.
“We were married in 1974 and we held our reception at the Armouries,” Mrs. Briscoe said. “Next year it will be 50 years that David and I have been married.”
Mr. Briscoe believes in leading by example and that has led to his three sons helping out in some capacity.
Because both parents instilled a sense of community pride and working towards making their community a great place to call home, it is more than likely one or more of this Briscoe clan will be helping out at the fair as well.
Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader