Dancing in the streets was to be expected. Voices and music rose above the usual noise of traffic and life. Clusters of people gathered.
Princeton held their fourth annual Traditional Music Festival. For three days, streets were blocked off, feet tapped and audience burst into song. From haunting to jovial, the music stirred emotions into a brew of pure enjoyment.
Many performers were back for their fourth year in a row for an annual event they look forward to all year long. Others were new, but came because they had heard. The mix worked.
Volunteers hustled up and down Vermilion Avenue from the Veterans Square stage to the stage erected at the museum. They directed musicians, offered advice, handed out the itinerary, emceed and in all kept the whole event moving smoothly. Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat were at the centre of it all. This was their child. The first year the event was smaller. Veterans Square had not been redone. No one was sure what to expect. Now, people from all across Canada come, along with musicians south of the border and some from even farther. Music lovers travel far to hear the eclectic mix of folk, francophone, Celtic, historic ballads, sea shanty, and so much more. Instruments are brought that some have never seen before. Songs everyone knows and songs that are freshly written are sung.
Even the forty degree weather did not deter the Saturday crowd. While some stepped down to the river for a dip to cool off, few found the heat too unbearable to play or listen. Local vendors lined the streets surrounding Veterans Square offering cold drinks, ice cream, snow cones, Indian food, cotton candy and more. Thomasina’s Tea Shoppe was swarming with hungry customers and many other local restaurants were hopping. “We noticed this year that local people and businesses seemed more engaged,” said organizer Rika Ruebsaat. “More local businesses were doing vending and more restaurants participated in the meal voucher program. The festival is gaining momentum with the community and with participants and visitors. People are more enthusiastic and more involved.
It is a process of osmosis.”
While Princeton sees and feels the positive economic impact the festival brings with it, Ruebsaat said the momentum is far reaching. “We are hearing more and more, “Hey this festival is one to go to.”
The word is spreading as is the positive feedback.”
Around 20 per cent of the performers at this fourth festival were new, estimated Jon Bartlett. “We hope to keep having new people coming each year to keep it interesting,” continued Ruebsaat, “plus we want our same old favourites to return year after year. Performers come because they have fun and we are a kind of sub-culture…an international/inter-continental group. Sixty per cent of us know one another through our music.”
The festival was able to boast more local talent this year. “We increased the amount of performers from the southwest interior,” stated Ruebsaat. “We are always looking for ways to improve and hope that more local performers will be part of that. One of the things that we keep hearing is that we have a perfect setting for our event. It is great that we can do this right in town.”
For those who stumble upon the festival, those who travel from afar to attend the event on their summer holidays and those who are lucky enough to be local, a day with music is always better than a day without. While downtown Princeton comes alive, so too do dancing feet and clapping hands. The Princeton Traditional Music Festival was the place to be on the weekend. Those who missed it missed a good party.