It was a hot and muggy Tuesday evening in Ontario, Canada’s “Greenbelt”—a 1.8 million acre patch of protected fertile farmland. The Greenbelt is home to about 7,000 farms, most family owned and operated. The HHH farm is one of them. Named after the three Harley brothers—Peter, Bob and Terry Harley—the Harley’ farm is the clubhouse of “The Sportsman’s Club,” a long-established fishing club composed of family and old friends.
The Dinner Belles usually rehearse, write, and perform in the farm’s barn. It’s covered with antiques and unusual items, from the farmand expeditions to all points throughout Ontario. Road signs, bunches of bird decoys, photographs, bits of fishing tackle, a handsome set of spats, a WWI army helmet, and even an old, weathered and wooden 1910 tombstone for a child so long gone it no longer bears his name, adorn the walls. This home away from home, for so many, was the natural choice to film the band.
We started in the barn. We lit candles and lanterns—with a fire extinguisher close at hand, of course. The band set up much like they always do. The Belles often feel more like family than friends. This feeling grew with the presence of lovely 2 year-old Kennedy Sharon Bell, the daughter of bassist/singer/songwriter Scott Bell, and a fixture at most Dinner Belles’ gatherings; she’s practically a junior member of the band. She sings along (often in key), dances, and applauds at the end of a song. There wasn’t even a hint that she was in the way. She belonged as much as anyone else.
After filming in the barn, we made our way into the house—a water-damaged hodgepodge of random renovations and repairs, plastered with pictures, promotional posters and calendars of years past. It also houses a collection of stuffed wildlife, including a very large, Canadian Black Bear, which caused singer/songwriter Terra Lightfoot to scream and coin the phrase, “Dinner Bears.” She wasn’t the only one screaming; Kennedy Bell also found the bear scary, occasionally shrieking, “a bear!” Once again, the band gathered around like they always do, with Kennedy right there with them. The farm is a family affair, and I’m glad to have been part of it.
- Text by Jonathan Ely Cass