Top News

Chaisson family keeps Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival flourishing in 42nd year

Piper Bjorklund, 6, and her cousin Emerson MacPhee, 4, got their feet moving at the 2018 Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival held on the weekend.
Piper Bjorklund, 6, and her cousin Emerson MacPhee, 4, got their feet moving at the 2018 Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival held on the weekend. - Katherine Hunt

ROLLO BAY, P.E.I. - While Peter Chaisson may not have been at this year’s Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival, his family members are confident he was looking down with pride.

Chaisson, the organizer who started the event 42 years ago, died during the 2015 festival.

Brad Chaisson plays his fiddle with The Chaisson Family during this year’s Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival.
Brad Chaisson plays his fiddle with The Chaisson Family during this year’s Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival.

Since then, his family has picked up where he left off.

After Chaisson’s death, nine family members formed the non-profit group Big Field Traditions (BFT) to run the festival.

“It was a labour of love for my dad,” said Peter’s son, Stephen Chaisson, during this year’s festival over the weekend. “He would be so pleased to see that (the festival) continued and that the cousins and the brothers are able to keep the tradition alive.”

Now in its 42nd year, the fiddle festival is thriving.

It has come a long way since its first year on the back of a hay wagon, said J.J. Chaisson, a member of The Chaisson Family and the festival’s organizing group.

He said organizers focused on making the festival more family-oriented since BFT took over.

The group took away seating benches and pushed back the parking lot to make a safer space for children to run around.

“The kids make friends, start up a soccer game, or go up there and play Frisbee,” said J.J. “They never have to worry in the field about cars.”

“Some people would say ‘42 years, it’s been a good run’ but you know what, no it’s not. When we (turn) 100 then we’re going to say ‘it’s been an amazing 100 years, let’s keep going’.”
-J.J. Chaisson

Festival-goer Allison Giggey, of Stratford, first attended the fiddle festival when she was six-years-old with her father Nils Ling.

This year, she and her father brought her five-year-old son A.J. and seven-year-old daughter Laine so they could be exposed to live traditional music and have some fun.

“They can play, they can meet other kids, it’s awesome,” she said. “It feels the same as it did when I was a kid. It’s very nostalgic for those of us that used to come when we were littler.”

The children’s music camp also doubled in size this year. There were also 50 volunteers, which is more than in previous years.

“We have an amazing network and it’s always growing and the more the merrier,” said J.J.

Some acts over the weekend included Dara Smith-MacDonald and Adam Young; Shane Cook; Sean Gray; Vishten; and Kindle.

Looking forward, J.J. said the festival could expand to be a folk festival.

“Eventually it would be nice to get that and draw even more people in,” he said.

J.J. said the long-term goal is to keep the tradition of the fiddle festival alive by passing the torch to his children, nieces, and nephews in the years to come.

“We’re prepping the next generation to do what we’re doing now just like our aunts and uncles did for us,” he said. “Some people would say ‘42 years, it’s been a good run’ but you know what, no it’s not. When we (turn) 100 then we’re going to say ‘it’s been an amazing 100 years, let’s keep going’.”

The proceeds raised from the festival will go towards free fiddles lessons for adults and children in the fall.

Dara Smith-MacDonald, of Cape Breton, showed her talent on Saturday during the 2018 Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival.
Dara Smith-MacDonald, of Cape Breton, showed her talent on Saturday during the 2018 Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival.

Recent Stories