Iroquois on the map with great Bluegrass Festival

The Festival organizers are exhausted.

The many volunteers are exhausted.

But as Barb Rabideau, sponsor/director of the Galop Canal Music Society, and Cassandra Barry, social media for the Music Society, put it, “Our 6th annual Galop Canal Bluegrass Festival was simply awesome.”

Held June 16-19, 2016, at the Point in Iroquois, the Bluegrass Festival saw over a thousand visitors in attendance to hear 11 top bands and to take part in workshops and jam sessions.

Organizers say this was the biggest crowd  since the Festival was founded six years ago. 

“We had 198 trailers and 20 tents parked on the site, rough camping,” said Cassandra Barry. “The turn out was incredible. It was amazing that volunteers Adriaan Rutters and Gerry Gurnhill actually found spots for all those campers, but they did. 

And people kept telling us that this was a great location.”

“There were a lot of first timers at the Festival this year as well,” Barb Rabideau said. “And a lot of Americans came over.”

People really enjoyed the entertaining and exciting bands taking part in the Festival.

Jim Collette and Ray Legere of Grasstic Measures, a popular four man band which originated in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, dropped into the Hartford Retirement Residence on Friday afternoon, June 17, and held a concert for the residents. 

“The musicians said they were using our lounge to ‘practice’,” laughed Shelly Duff, food service manager at the Hartford, “but they donated their time and talent to us. It was really a special treat to hear them play, and the residents loved them.”

Afterwards, Collette and Legere (a Canadian Grand National Fiddle and Mandolin Champion,  who has been inducted into the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame) talked a bit about the nature of Bluegrass music and about the Iroquois Festival. 

“People are incredibly friendly,” Jim Collette said. “There is just so much small town hospitality in South Dundas. And Barb Rabideau is one of the nicest promoters we’ve ever dealt with. It’s great to be here.”

Bluegrass with its three part harmonies and its blend of banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and upright bass, originated in the 1950s with  Bill Monroe. 

“There’s a Celtic feel to the music,” Collette said, “and also an Appalachian Mountain feel to it. Of course,” he added laughing, “there’s those who say the main difference between country music and bluegrass is there are no pick up trucks in the lyrics.”

“This is music you can play on a stage or just in your kitchen,” Ray Legere added. “Someone once said that bluegrass is the happiest music attached to the saddest songs. Heartbreak, with maybe a little murder tossed in,” he laughed. 

“When kids say they want to play bluegrass, first we teach them to be humble. You play for the love of the music itself, not because it’s popular,” Jim added. “You have to find the honesty in bluegrass songs.”

Both musicians praised the Galop Canal Bluegrass Festival and its organizers. 

“There is a lovely sound up at the Point,” Ray said. “You have a great performance area, and people are beginning to take notice. Galop Canal has the potential to be one of the great Bluegrass festivals.”

Rick Leben, formerly Bluegrass DJ with Valley Heritage Radio, acted as MC for the Festival.

“There are fantastic volunteers here, and great South Dundas support,” he said. “We had 16 or 20 local people come out for the open mic on Thursday night, and the crowd roared for them. The facility is great.”

“We found out that Bluegrass is definitely not just for the old this weekend,” said Barb Rabideau. “A 13-year-old mandolin player was invited up on stage twice with the professional bands. He could sing too, and was a big hit with the crowds.”

“There seemed to be a very broad age range attending the Festival,” added Cassandra Barry.

Artistically and financially, organizers feel that the 2016 Galop Canal Bluegrass Festival was a great success. They praised the hard work of the volunteers and the backing of many area businesses. 

“The community really supported us,” Barb Rabideau said. “Iroquois was definitely the hot spot in Canada last week. And we’ve already started to plan next year’s Festival line-up.”

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