Rhythm of bluegrass music takes over River Valley campground this summer
Bluegrass music is the key to success for a River Valley campground.
This long weekend, more than a dozen bluegrass groups and bands are performing for a large four-day musical bash called the “35th River Valley Country and Bluegrass Gathering”.
Warming up the banjo, fiddle, bass, guitar and vocals for their weekend performances is Southwind, a bluegrass group from the Niagara area. The band members include Denis LePage, banjo player, Eric Brousseau, guitarist, Jim Young, fiddle player, and Gary Glenn, bass player.
“I’ve been playing since I was 15. Once you get bitten by it, you get the bug and it's an itch you have to scratch," said LePage.
This is the first of three festivals this year at the campground where people from all over Ontario bring their motor homes and camp out for traditional bluegrass tunes.
This festival will run until July 3. The next one is the “38th River Valley Bluegrass Jamboree” that will take place from July 27-31. Following that, from Sept. 1-4, the campground will host the “19th Annual River Valley Country and Bluegrass Wind-Up Weekend”.
“It’s our 35th festival for this. But we’ve done bluegrass for 38 years. People love the music, they love to play and they love to sing together. Everybody is so welcoming," said Patrick de Boer, co-owner of River Valley Bluegrass Park.
Back in February of 1984, de Boer’s late father Tony bought the property. Only six months later, Tony held his first festival. The shows then became a proud tradition. Tony passed away two years ago. Patrick, along with his two siblings, Doug and Cindy, carry it on to this day.
"He loved the music more than anyone I can think of. Bluegrass was his dream,” said de Boer reflecting on his father’s passion for the music. “He did a lot for bluegrass in Ontario and Canada. We used to go down to the states for the award show."
Bluegrass music started in rural America in the 1930s and 40s. It’s often termed as ‘hillbilly’ or ‘mountain’ music and its electric pace and unique instruments excite listeners.
“It hasn't changed much of the years and it's its own style,” said Kevin Barry, an avid bluegrass listener from Warren, Ont. “The first few bands that came on were really quite good."
Guy Morrissette from Iroquois Falls makes the trip to the bluegrass festivals every year.
"We're a big gang today. We’ve got eight trailers,” he said. “We know a lot of people here. It’s a lot of fun. You get together at night and you jam. So we all get together and play music.”
The de Boer family is hoping to expand the property in the future so more people can squeeze in and hear the sweet rhythm and blues.