8th annual Bluegrass Festival is “biggest and best yet”

South Dundas’ own Bill Horner, centre, stepped up to the mic during the band Traditionally Wound’s set at the Bluegrass Festival. The members of Traditionally Wound spontaneously accompanied Bill on “Old Country Church.” (The Leader/Gibb photo)

IROQUOIS – “I love it here. The crowds are great and really responsive, and this is a beautiful site for the Festival. I’m really glad we came up here to be a part of it.”

Tom Venne of the American band, Beartracks, one of the headliners at the 2018 Galop Canal Bluegrass Festival, held at Iroquois Point June 14-16, was only echoing the opinions of virtually everyone who attended the event. This, the eighth year of the Festival, has proved to be the biggest yet: and this Festival has been steadily growing every season.

“We had more than 200 trailers parked up at the Point for the three days of the Festival,” said Festival vice president Barb Rabideau. “And we had big day crowds on both Friday and Saturday.”

With 12 bands, including Beartracks and fellow concert headliner Dreamcatcher from Tennessee, on stage, the music never stopped all weekend.

MC Rick Leben kept the crowd entertained while John Cameron of John Cameron Audio, out of Knowlton, Quebec, ensured quality sound for every band.

The event drew music lovers of all ages, listening fans and also back porch musicians.

Both Beartracks and Dreamcatcher held free instrumental workshops during the Festival for beginners and pros alike. And, as Tom Venne said, “I was at a jam until 1:30 a.m. with other musicians.”

“The workshops were super,” said Rabideau, “and really well attended. And there were jam sessions all over the Point every evening that people really enjoyed.”

New this year, and a popular addition to the Festival were the excellent Thursday evening performance of the Seaway District High School band and the great numbers by the Seaway high school group, Almost Synchronized. “We want kids to experience both the music and the audiences,” Rabideau explained.

As part of the Festival’s efforts to introduce bluegrass music to new generations, and to encourage music in schools in general, the Festival will be donating a $500 cheque to the music program at Seaway District High School, raised by the proceeds from the 50/50 draw.

Another successful addition to the Festival weekend were square dancing demonstrations on Friday by the Swinging B’s and the Harbour Lites Modern Square Dance Clubs.

Rabideau had a lot of praise for the generous sponsors of the 2018 Bluegrass Festival, and for the friends and volunteers who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for several days to make the concert weekend a huge success.

“They were all wonderful,” she said, “and they definitely deserve our thanks.”

Surveys from those attending the Festival were very positive. Fans converged on Iroquois from several Ontario locations, from Quebec and also from the United States.

“We are building a great reputation as a Bluegrass Festival people want to attend,” Rabideau said. “We have a perfect site here at the Locks. And top bands also look forward to coming here.”

The 2018 Galop Canal Bluegrass Festival may be a memory now, but fans of great music will be glad to know that organizers are already planning the 2019 event.

Taking in the beautiful weather and some first class bluegrass entertainment at the Festival was this “Morrisburg Contingent.” (The Leader/Gibb photo)