CTV News Northern Ontario: The rhythm of bluegrass music takes over the River Valley campground this summer

Bluegrass music is the key to success for a River Valley campground.

Over this long weekend, more than a dozen bluegrass groups and bands perform for a major four-day musical party called the 35th River Valley Country and Bluegrass Gathering.

Southwind, a bluegrass group from the Niagara region, fires up banjo, fiddle, bass, guitar and vocals for their weekend performances. Band members include Denis LePage, banjo player, Eric Brousseau, guitarist, Jim Young, violinist, and Gary Glenn, bassist.

“I’ve been playing since I was 15. Once you get bitten by it, you get the bug and it’s an itch to scratch,” LePage said.

This is the first of three festivals this year at the campground, which will see people from across Ontario bring their RVs and camp out to traditional bluegrass tunes.

This festival runs until July 3rd. The next is the “38. River Valley Bluegrass Jamboree, which will take place July 27-31. Then, from September 1st to 4th, the “19th annual River Valley Country and Bluegrass Wind-Up Weekend.

“This is our 35th festival for it. But we’ve been doing bluegrass for 38 years. People love music, they love to play and they love to sing together. Everyone is so welcoming,” said Patrick de Boer, co-owner of River Valley Bluegrass Park.

In February 1984, de Boer’s late father Tony bought the property. Just six months later, Tony held his first festival. The shows then became a proud tradition. Tony died two years ago. Patrick continues to this day with his two siblings, Doug and Cindy.

“He loved music more than anyone I can imagine. Bluegrass was his dream,” de Boer said while reflecting on his father’s passion for music. “He did a lot for bluegrass in Ontario and Canada for the awards.”

Bluegrass music began in rural America in the 1930s and 40s. Often referred to as “hillbilly” or “mountain” music, its electric tempo and unique instruments delight listeners.

“It hasn’t changed much over the years and has its own style,” said Kevin Barry, an avid bluegrass listener from Warren, Ontario. “The first few bands that came out were actually pretty good.”

Iroquois Falls’ Guy Morrissette travels to the bluegrass festivals every year.

“We are a big gang today. We have eight trailers,” he said. “We know a lot of people here. It makes a lot of fun. You get together at night and jam and play music.”

The de Boer family hopes to expand the property in the future so more people can squeeze in and hear the sweet rhythm and blues.

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