Festival Organizers Hope To Keep Tradition Alive


Organizers of a longtime Ottawa Valley tradition are hoping a new generation of leaders will give it a strong future.

Attendance has been falling in recent years at Pembroke's Old Time Fiddle & Step Dancing Championships, and costs have been building, but longtime festival Director Brian Adam told Pembroke City Council they're planning a big 45th anniversary celebration next year.

"Next year will be an anniversary party like you've never seen", Adam told Pure Country 96.7.

After that, Adam and many of the current board members will be retiring, and he says it will then be time to hand the Labour Day weekend tradition over to a new generation to carry the ball forward.

Adam says many believe the unique festival represents the heritage and history of the Ottawa Valley in a way that few other events can.

"The point is, we continue to celebrate, and want to continue to celebrate, old time fiddle music, and old time step dancing", he said.

The festival began with very humble roots in 1975, when just 12 camping trailers housed festival attendees at Riverside Park, which is known as "Fiddle Park" during the festival.

At its height more than a decade ago, that had grown to more than 1,600 trailers.

However, attendance has been falling by about 100 per year over the last decade, with only 500 trailers this year.  Still, Adam notes that this year's number is not lower than last year, which they were relieved to see.

The number of competitors taking part in the formal competitions at the Pembroke Memorial Centre has also been falling.

"Has it bottomed out?  We just don't know", he told City Council.

Adam notes that people still come to the festival from across Canada, and from several U.S. states, and says they've built a proud tradition that they want to see continue.

"It's a labour of love", he notes.  "It's what we do".

"After 44 years, it's time to hand the ball over, as one would say, to the next generation", he said.

"Hopefully, they'll pick it up, and keep it going".

According to Adam, the festival costs about $10,000 a year to hold, and organizers have invested somewhere around $200,000 in infrastructure at Riverside Park over that time.

Details about the 45th anniversary celebration have yet to be released, but Adam says we can expect to hear more about it next year, well in advance of the event.