For the past 26 years, the Roy family sisters have been gathering almost annually, taking turns hosting and organizing. This year, it was Fishers resident Annette Roy’s turn to host, and all five agreed several months in advance that late September would work best.
“So, the weekend was already set, Thursday through Sunday, and then Farm Aid was announced,” Roy said.
Their father, Jim Roy, was a full-time farmer. He and the family worked 109 acres in Allen County in northeast Indiana. Annette Roy said he died at age 43 of leukemia on Sept. 23, 1971, leaving behind his wife and nine children — four boys and five girls.
Farm Aid at the Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville fell on the 52nd anniversary of his death.
Roy said when she heard the benefit concert was happening the same weekend as their reunion, she polled her sisters and everyone agreed to go to Farm Aid. She was able to get five tickets moments before the event sold out.
Their heritage as farm kids and losing their farmer father at a young age made attending Farm Aid as a family a special celebration.
“On my dad’s side, my uncle was a full-time farmer. His one son was a full-time farmer,” she said. “There’s just something about the community that you’re in, as well. We had a really strong community up there, and people just helped each other. I mean, the amount of people who stepped in after my dad passed was amazing. It’s just an interesting community that I think you don’t see today because of people being more in the suburbs and moving around and not having relationships with the same families over and over and over. That still exists in some small towns and some places, but it’s just less normal now.”
Roy ended up in Fishers in a roundabout way. She was a radio announcer in Decatur and Fort Wayne, then worked for the mayor of Fort Wayne, then got hired by Simon Malls in Fort Wayne where she was promoted and moved to Fishers. She said most of her siblings are still in Indiana, too, although a few have ended up in other states.
The reunion started on a Thursday, so there was much more planned than just the Saturday concert, although that was the main event. Roy said they participated in a 5K in Speedway, made candles at Penn and Beach in Carmel, toured the Bottleworks District in downtown Indianapolis, had dinner at Fountain Square and went to thrift shops.
On the day of the concert, Roy said she surprised her sisters with custom-made shirts. The bright green T-shirts have a logo of a tractor on the front and say “Farmer’s Daughter” on the back. Each sister’s shirt also has a number denoting the order of their birth.
The shirts were a big hit, not just with her sisters but others attending the concert.
“You would not believe, and I am not making this up, the attention we got,” she said. “It was bizarre. People stopped us, they wanted to know our story, they took pictures of us with their own phones. It was crazy. It was like we were celebrities.”
They were able to talk to people about their dad, and Roy said strangers would give them hugs and tell their own farm stories.
Because they’re a little older — Roy is the youngest at 58 — the sisters didn’t want to stay for the full day of Farm Aid. They looked at the performance lineup and decided to go at around 3 p.m. and stay through midnight.
They saw all the big names — John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jim Irsay with Ann Wilson — and a few others.
“I will tell you, Farm Aid exceeded every expectation any one of us had,” Roy said. “It was special, and special things just kept happening throughout the day. It was truly special and magical.”
Some of those special moments included Willie Nelson singing one of their mom, Ginny’s, favorite songs; Dave Matthews’ vocal coach giving her sister one of the performer’s guitar picks and a set list; an image of a double rainbow on the screen for the closing act (another favorite of their mom’s); and finding a “penny from heaven” during the weekend.
Roy said that she’s not sure how the sisters will be able to top this year’s reunion, although they definitely plan to bring the shirts along next year.
What is Farm Aid?
Farm Aid is an all-day music festival that benefits family farms in the United States. According to the website, the annual concert has raised more than $70 million for farmers since it started in 1985.
Board members include Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews and Margo Price.
The first Farm Aid concert was Sept. 22, 1985, in Champaign, Illinois. Farm Aid Festivals have since taken place in Texas, Nebraska, Iowa, Louisiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Washington state, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Missouri, Wisconsin, Kansas, North Carolina, Connecticut and Indiana.
There was one virtual Farm Aid in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For more about Farm Aid, visit farmaid.org.