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Spirits high at 33rd annual Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival

Natasha Pentyliuk and Colin Bodor sit in the grass enjoying the Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival this past Sunday. The couple stumbled upon the festival while Pentyliuk was visiting P.E.I. taking a break from her work in Yarmouth, N.S.
Natasha Pentyliuk and Colin Bodor sit in the grass enjoying the Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival this past Sunday. The couple stumbled upon the festival while Pentyliuk was visiting P.E.I. taking a break from her work in Yarmouth, N.S. - Tony Davis

ROLLO BAY - Natasha Pentyliuk and her boyfriend, Colin Bodor, came to P.E.I. on a bit of a whim this past weekend.

And they’re glad they did.

With no firm plans, they picked up some information for the 33rd annual P.E.I. Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival in Rollo Bay. It sounded like a good idea to Pentyliuk, who is from Edmonton and is working in Yarmouth, N.S., and to Bodor, who had never been to P.E.I. before.

“I like bluegrass. We have been here since Friday,” Pentyliuk said Sunday on the final day of the festival as the sun shone down on what has become both a festival of music and a festival of family.

Shirley Smedley Jay, who has been organizing the P.E.I. Bluegrass and Old Time Music Festival for the last 18 years with the help of volunteers, says the event is certainly family-friendly, and that is what kept her coming before she took over an organizer role.

The bluegrass community, she adds, is like family, and that includes the members of bands. For example, the Bluegrass Diamonds were already telling concertgoers they would be back after the final performance of the weekend Sunday.

“The Bluegrass Diamonds are regulars. They are so friendly, and people love them,” Jay said.

Every year in July, RVs and campers pack “the big field” in Rollo Bay, with the first to arrive on Wednesday and Thursday enjoying open mic sessions in the big barn on the festival grounds.

“Friday, we go right into the festival and music,” Jay said, explaining that the festival started on Friday at 1 p.m. with concerts daily. And the performances on stage often aren’t the end of music for the night.

“People can play music at their camp sites all night if they want, and some do,” Jay said.

Like all family members, people come and go, but Jay says some return every year – like Thomas Baker from Antigonish, N.S.

“He promotes the concert all year long,” Jay said, and tells anyone he can this is the concert to come to on the East Coast.

Bella Hubley enjoys coming to the festival with her family, who is from Peggy’s Cove, N.S. Her father plays bass with the band Free Wheelin’.

“I got to carry his amp. My dad had to carry his bass, though,” Hubley said as she listened to the music while sitting in the audience sitting with her grandparents.

As she looks around her on the last day of another successful festival, Jay knows everything would be impossible without the support of another branch of the bluegrass family tree.

“I want to give a huge thanks to all the volunteers. We really appreciate them, and none of this could happen without them.”

Meanwhile, as Free Wheelin’ plays the last notes of its set, Bella is quick to get to her feet, heading to the stage to help her dad remove his amp and equipment.

Free Wheelin’ has another gig coming up and has to move along.

Jay noticed a lot of people who attend the bluegrass festival do the same thing.

“Some people just pack up and go to the next bluegrass festival. There is one every weekend, and some people just follow them all summer.”

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