For the first time in three years, the Leacock Medal gala weekend is returning to Orillia following a hiatus through the pandemic.
Set for Sept. 16 and 17 at the Leacock Museum, this year’s gala marks the 75th anniversary of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Canada’s only national award for humour writing.
Shortlisted for the 2022 award are Mark Critch, Dawn Dumont and Rick Mercer, whose works came out on top of this year’s 78 submissions.
The trio will be joined by shortlisted candidates and winners from 2020 and 2021, who did not have the opportunity to celebrate their work due to the pandemic.
“They didn’t get to have their party, so this is an absolutely, fabulously big party that we’re putting on for them,” said Daphne Mainprize, vice-president of the Stephen Leacock Associates.
This year’s gala weekend events will take place under a marquee on the Leacock Museum lawn.
The weekend’s festivities kick off Friday, Sept. 16 with shortlisted authors reading excerpts of their work. The evening will also feature the winners of the 2021 and 2022 Stephen Leacock Student Humorous Short Story Competition, which is open to high school students across Canada.
That evening’s events will be MCed by two-time Leacock Medal winner Terry Fallis.
Saturday, Sept. 17 brings the gala dinner, when the winner of this year’s Leacock Medal — and $25,000 in prize money — will be announced. The evening will be MCed by Ali Hassan, host of CBC’s Laugh Out Loud and Canada Reads.
Mainprize said this year’s gala is particularly special, as it marks an important anniversary, a return to in-person programming, and the celebration of three years of shortlisted authors.
“This is the 75th anniversary, so that’s why we’re really pulling out all the stops. It’s going to be a fabulous event,” Mainprize said. “There aren’t that many organizations that can say they put on that sort of program for that many years.”
The gala weekend and Leacock Medal highlight an important part of Orillia’s history, Mainprize said.
“When Leacock wrote Sunshine Sketches (of a Little Town), he was telling the stories of community and the universality of small, rural towns, and he wrote about Orillia, calling it Mariposa. Across the world, a lot of people — it resonated with them,” she said. “It’s a piece of our heritage, along with many other very, very important pieces of our heritage as a community.”
As part of continuing that legacy, Mainprize encouraged young writers to submit their work in the student competition.
Three winners are granted prizes of $1,000, $700 and $300 for their stories.
“It’s a program that we’re really excited about trying to promote and push forward because this is an opportunity for young Canadian writers to start to work on honing their skills,” she said.
“We have some amazing students that have won, and they will be reading (along with) some of the authors on Friday night.”
Mainprize said the gala would not be possible without the hard work of the Stephen Leacock Associates, community members, and generous support of the event’s sponsors.
“We’re a small team of people, and it is a team effort — everybody is doing their piece,” she said. “It’s a team effort of a small group of people and volunteers who are community citizens who believe in this project.”
Tickets for the weekend cost $40 for Friday evening and $105 for Saturday’s gala dinner.
More about the weekend’s events can be found here.