A summer tradition
Players and fans of traditional music look forward to the 39th annual Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival
When Tim Chaisson and Andrea Beaton are planning their busy performing schedules, they always try to keep one summer date open - the third weekend of July.
That’s because for those days there is no other place these much-sought-after professional musicians would rather be than at the annual Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival - playing tunes, meeting friends and entertaining audiences who share their love of traditional music. And both are thrilled this year to be returning to this picturesque eastern Kings County community for the 39th annual event, July 17-19.
“What can I say? I am just so excited,” said Beaton from Cape Breton earlier this week.
“I feel like as soon as I got off the ferry (at Wood Islands), there is a change in the air. I just get really happy and exited, seeing all the people who were so good to me when I lived there and so good to me now. I always feel like I am being welcomed with open arms.”
The award-winning Cape Breton fiddler, now based in Montreal, grew up hearing her parents and other Cape Breton musicians talking about playing at the festival.
“I remember being really excited to be seeing (the festival) live for the first time and I just felt like it was piece of home for me,” says Beaton who couldn’t attend last year because she was performing in Denmark, but has missed very few festivals over the past 14 years.
Tim Chaisson, who grew up just a few kilometres away in Bear River, has missed only one festival in his 28 years.
Now with a music career that takes him off P.E.I. for weeks at a time, there’s still a pull to make it home for the Rollo Bay weekend.
“It’s one of those things that is a part of my summer and year. It would be like summer didn’t happen if I wasn’t there,” says the multiple ECMA and Music P.E.I. award-winner.
Highlights have always included seeing family members and playing the traditional music that has such as rich history in his family. Now, there’s the excitement of taking his fiancé to the festival.
“I think the atmosphere is such a good energy. Everyone is content to be there. It’s pretty laid back - probably the most laid back festival I’ve ever been to. No one is stressing about things . . . and that setting just creates a good vibe.”
Beaton agrees the atmosphere is special - a feeling of stability and happiness. It’s something she urges people who’ve never gone before to discover.
“I would tell them that it is an experience not to be missed, you would feel at home when you arrive and you would never want to leave,” she said adding she appreciates the work everyone puts into the festival that means so much to her.
As one of those organizers, the festival has always hit close to home for Peter Chaisson, who lives a few kilometres away on the Bear River Road. He and other family members are continuing the tradition that was started by his father, along with then Father Faber MacDonald.
A fiddler himself, he knows what it means to many people.
“The festival has been running for 38 years and we’ve got people from away who books their vacations around it. It’s a gathering that people look forward to and we see people coming back year after year.”
They come from all over, he says, including musicians this year from the Ottawa Valley area.
“If they are fiddle lovers, what better place than Rollo Bay?”