North Rustico Country Music Festival marks 25th anniversary
Fans of old-time country are arriving in Rustico this weekend by the carload — and the busload — for the annual North Rustico Country Music Festival at the North Star Arena.
Beginning today and continuing until Sunday, this 25th anniversary edition will feature the elements that have contributed to its success over the years — good food, good music and good fun. Entertainers from the New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Fame will share the stage with P.E.I. performers in a weekend that includes concerts, workshops, jam sessions, a hymn sing and meals on site.
The festival has its roots a few kilometres west of North Rustico in what was then a popular amusement park called Rainbow Valley. Originally called Fiddlers and Followers, Mary Smith, an employee at Rainbow Valley, came up with the idea and has been a key organizers since the beginning.
“To keep traditional old-time music alive is why it started out, and it still is the reason we continue. It’s part of our heritage. Rainbow Valley was really receptive to the idea, owner Earle Davison provided the opportunity for it to start and he’s still involved in it today.
“We’ve never missed a year — we’re getting older, but I still get really pumped up about it,” says Smith with a little laugh.
“It’s quite a milestone. I suppose we didn’t look ahead to going for 25 years, but it’s so rewarding when you see how much good people get out of it. It would be a shame if it didn’t keep going.”
Her organizational team effort with Davison has also kept going. There has been other occasional assistance; for example, this year they were grateful to have two young people for a day and a half from the municipality of North Rustico to help erect the fisheriesbackdrop on the stage in the arena.
When the festival started, the fiddle was the main instrument. Smith, who is a fiddler and entertainer with plenty of contacts in
North Star Arena, North Rustico. July 31 to Aug. 2.
New Brunswick Country Music Hall of Famers Allison Inch, Bonnie Rairdon, Ivan and Vivian Hicks, Roger Lanteigne, Derek Knowles and Wayne Hache, as well as Fern and Laurie Belliveau, Marnie and Harold Noye, Louise Arsenault, Janet McGarry, Serge Bernard, Howard Ross, Lester MacPherson, Theo Wiegers, Trudy Corbett Hughes, Mary Cousins, the Arsenault Sisters, Mary Smith and many more.
Call Mary at 902-963-2356 or 902836-3610 or email email@example.com. the entertainment field, has been able to grow the festival to include top country vocalists and bluegrass performers. However, there are still top-notch fiddlers, including Ivan Hicks from New Brunswick, who will be taking the stage with his wife, Vivian.
“It’s a nice event with some great talent, a great weekend,” he said from his home outside Moncton.
Now in his 69th year of playing the fiddle (he started playing dances with his dad near Port Elgin, N.B., when he was just six years old), he says he’s planning lots of fiddle tunes and maybe even a song or two from Vivian.
After playing in North Rustico last year, they are happy to be coming back. And he urges music fans to check it out.
“Here’s the 25th anniversary of a festival, so you know that something good is being done. Come and see and hear what talent there is. There’s a Friday night concert, a Saturday afternoon and evening concert, a Sunday concert, workshops, great food and great socializing. And the atmosphere of North Rustico — just being around that community makes it a special weekend in many ways.”
He also has high praise Smith’s efforts.
“She’s one of those ambassadors that a place has and she is certainly one of them for Prince Edward Island.”
As Smith completes the final touches on the weekend — from the red and white table cloths and the indoor tent in the arena to the concert lineups, the food and her master of ceremonies notes — she’s looking forward to the music, food and fun getting underway again.
“It’s professionally done — a quality event and the entertainers are fantastic. People mingle and get to know the entertainers and enjoy the music.”
Ivan and Vivian Hicks from New Brunswick are looking forward to performing at the 25th North Rustico Country Music Festival at the North Star Arena this weekend.