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Jamming the night away at Fiddle Park

By Celina Ip

Ian Hamilton plays his fiddle while his dad Gerald jams along with his guitar outside their trailer at Fiddle Park on August 30.

Ian Hamilton plays his fiddle while his dad Gerald jams along with his guitar outside their trailer at Fiddle Park on August 30.


The sounds of old-time fiddling and step-dancing will echo around Riverside Park this Labour Day weekend.


From Sept. 1 to 3, Pembroke will welcome hundreds of talented musicians and dancers as the 42nd Old Time Fiddling and Step Dancing Championships moves into town.

With competitors and visitors coming from all across North America, more than 400 trailers have already been stationed throughout the park - with a couple hundred more that are expected to filter in by Friday – as the campers eagerly await the festival’s kickoff.

Over the past week, a team of nearly 80 volunteers have been busily working around the clock to organize the event, prepare the venue, welcome early registrants and tie up any loose ends to ensure a smooth ride.

Longtime fiddle fest attendee Ian Hamilton has been leading the hardworking team by serving in the role of Fiddle Park chairman.

It was 31 years ago, that Hamilton began attending the festival with his family as an annual tradition.

By the time he was 19 years old, Hamilton took up his familial love of fiddling as his dad taught him how to play and he swiftly began competing at the annual Pembroke festival.

“It's a family tradition that goes as far back as I know or have been told. All of the men in my family have been fiddling, beginning with my great-great-grandfather and then my dad is the one that got me interested in it,” said Hamilton. “After going to a fiddle contest and seeing how much fun everyone was having, I decided I wanted to play. I started fiddling at 19 and began competing right away.”

He continued to compete nearly every year thereafter and it wasn’t too long until he joined the volunteer committee to also become involved with the organization and planning of the festival.

“I retired from competing in 2000 but then I went back to competing in 2011 and have been every year since then,” said Hamilton. “And I’ve been volunteering for the past 18 years. I take a week off work to volunteer here every September and do what I love.”

This year, along with serving as Fiddle Park chairman, Hamilton will once again be picking up his beloved instrument and participating in the competition.

Throughout the weekend, he’ll also be joined by his parents and their longtime friends as they gather outside their trailer – parked at the same Fiddle Park location that they’ve had for the past 35 years – and jam into the wee hours of the morning with their fiddles, guitars and other instruments.

Hamilton expects this year’s fiddle contest to be another grand success that will welcome new and old faces as Riverside Park comes alive with the beautiful sounds of fiddling and step-dancing.

“With the credibility of the judges, the venue, the location of the park and the atmosphere – it’s just become the one to go to. If people had to miss a contest, they'd miss another one in order to come here,” said Hamilton. 

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