Festival planned to help family after devastating barn fire

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Festival planned to help family after devastating barn fire

Members of the farming community are tripping over each other to organize an event to raise money for Peter Ruiter and his family after a fire destroyed their farm earlier this month. 

But Ruiter was hesitant to accept the outpouring of support.

"I'm not a taker," Ruiter told CBC News Friday. "I've always tried to look after myself and be a good neighbour to everybody else. I'm not the person to go out there and look for this."

Blackrapids Farm lost three barns, including one that was 125 years old, in a fire on Sept. 8. Firefighters estimate the damage at $1 million. The fire also killed 80 cows, the majority of the family's herd.

In the aftermath, Ruiter said he was trying his best to "ignore the rain and focus on the rainbows."

"It's blowing me away," he said. "The community keeps just showing me more rainbows."

'Turning a negative into a positive'

When neighbours scrambled to help, Ruiter insisted the event be a party and a chance for his family to say thank you to the community that's shown his family so much support.

So they settled on what is being called Blackrapids Farmfest. 

Wyatt McWilliams, an organizer, said the event will also show how grateful everyone is for the Ruiter's involvement in the community.

"It's kind of the rural way of turning a negative into a positive, but on the same note, it's the old school way of everybody getting together and showing the Ruiter family their support and the goodwill that's out there."

McWilliams, who has known the family for 30 years and raises horses in Navan, said he started getting calls from people offering to help on the day of the fire. They haven't stopped. 

Support across community

The Ottawa Federation of Agriculture, the Ottawa-Carleton Milk Committee, Junior Farmers and others are all coordinating Farmfest.

"Individual groups were wanting to do their own parties. The bottom line is it's going to be one event, one party," he said.

The event takes place Oct. 14 at the North Gower Community Centre. It will begin at 6 p.m. with a reception, followed by speeches, a silent auction and dancing — with all proceeds going to the Ruiter family.

Though there's a festive spirit in the air, Ruiter said the family has just finished cleaning up after the fire. 

"It's pretty sad, if you came by the farm, you'd never know I was farming," he said. 

He's taking the future of his farm one day at a time and is getting back to his scheduled work.

"What I got accomplished today, I was pretty happy with [it] … though I'll miss milking my cows tonight."