July/August 2004

The 54th Annual Canadian Open Old Time Fiddle Championship

August 2004 Shelburne Ontario

Fiddle Park

Fiddle Park is an empty field on the edge of town that becomes a village of 850 campsites during Fiddle week. But it is no ordinary campground. It’s a great place to listen to music on Friday or Saturday night or after the parade on Saturday. A good number of the campers are musicians, some of whom come every year to play for people in the park. They don’t do it for the money, no one hires them or invites them to play. Some may have a few CDs for sale, most do not. They might be family groups, amateurs or professionals. They play for the people and for the love of it. Some walk around with their instruments looking for a group to sit in with, so the group you stopped to listen to will grow and change as players come and go.

In the park, you never know what you will find. One year, I was listening to the Seven Brothers group from North Bay when former fiddle champs Eleanor and Graham Townsend came along and joined them. They played a very loose and spirited version of the Orange Blossom Special that I will never forget. On Saturday afternoon this year we came across Linsey and Tyler Beckett who won the duet class Friday night playing with an excellent bass player and a guitar picker. A fellow who played the spoons came by and joined in. The Becketts are also well known for their stepdancing and the requisite plywood was laid on the ground. In the past there was often a piece of plywood out in front of a band for people to dance on if they felt like it and many did. Sometimes there would be a hay wagon to dance on. This part of the tradition has almost disappeared from the park but you will still find many groups playing old time fiddling, bluegrass or country music.
On Sunday in the park, many are packing up and leaving. For those who still want more, Jim Beech always puts on a good and varied show Sunday afternoon. He starts with gospel, moves into country and always has Clive Prentiss on telling mostly "adult" jokes. It is hard to imagine fiddle weekend without Jim Beech and the musicians who play with him. He is always one of the first to set up in the park and one of the last to leave and the people love him. With his deep voice and the songs he writes from the heart it is easy to hear why.
Report by Joyce Corbett • Photographs by Roger Humbert

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