by Edith Cody-Rice
Ontario’s iconic gardening advisor, Ed Lawrence, retired from his CBC radio Monday gardening spot at the end of August 2022, after broadcasting for 40 years plus two shows. CBC presented him with a rock engraved with his name and the words “Thanks for taking my call Ed”. Indeed, Ed has been a staple of Ontario gardeners’ world for a very long time. But CBC’s loss is Almonte’s gain for as many Almontonians know, Ed lives here. He moved to the area in 1992 and has been contributing to the community ever since.
Ed’s friends advised him not to do anything for six months after retirement. Little chance of that. Ed has always been community minded and contributed to the fabric of Mississippi Mills. He is currently involved in the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust and contributes to various charities in town. He marched in the Puppets Up! parade and is a huge supporter of it. After the long isolation of Covid, he said, it gets people out and about, contributing to their mental and physical health.
And to cap it all, he will appear as Elvis in the Kris and Rob Riendeau’s production of Sketchy Santa, an evening of adult only sketches at the old Town Hall this month. Two years ago, Rob and Kris Riendeau (aka Humm Team Productions) presented their show Who Stole Christmas from Mississippi Mills at the Almonte Old Town Hall. That musical parody which sold out all performances. Covid cancelled their new play, Sketchy Santa in 2021 on the eve of its performance, but, undaunted, the cast and crew are back with Ed performing the role of Elvis once again. Ed thinks he has a voice like a toad but others disagree. He says it is fun and he applies a phrase that he learned when studying yoga “Are your prepared to make a fool of yourself for the divine”. In this case, the divine is the good of the community. Ed says he has made many friends through participating in the play but it is tough. Sitting in a radio studio broadcasting to one half million people is not stressful to him. He speaks to one person at a time and has a host to stick handle introductions and control traffic. Here he needs to rehearse and memorize lines for a live performance. But it is fun and all for a good cause. Sketchy Santa is a fund raiser for Puppets Up! which was revived this summer to great acclaim.
Three of Ed’s sisters are coming up from Toronto and Peterborough to watch their brother perform.
To Ed, Almonte is special. After his discovery of the town in 1992, he says his only regret is that during his first years here he did not spend enough time in the community as he was focused on his work in Ottawa. He is clearly in love with this town.
Sketchy Santa performances are scheduled for 7:30pm on November 11, 12, 17 and 18, with 2pm matinees on Sunday, November 13 and Saturday, November 19. People can head to ticketsplease.ca to order their tickets, or call 485–6434 if they want to go old school.