The 50th anniversary Lynn River Music and Arts Festival was from beginning to end a prime opportunity to showcase Norfolk County’s talent.
That was evident right from the three-day event’s opening ceremonies on the main stage on Saturday morning, as a trio called The Small Town Girls led the gathering with their roots rendition of O Canada, while they strummed a ukulele, mandolin and guitar.
“In programming the festivities for this year’s festival, I wanted to take into consideration the rich history of the festivals that have occurred on the August Civic Holiday over the past 50 years,” said the event’s artistic director, Sara Moody Veldhuis.
“I wanted to not only highlight each decade of music, but also the musicians who make this music come alive.”
She said she was proud that the festival was “almost 100 per cent homegrown” this year, with most of them coming from Norfolk County. The artists ranged in age and styles with a panoply of melodies and rhythms.
There were also magic acts, including Lucas Wilson and his Lucas Old Toys presentation reflecting Toy Story. One trick he performed was having a handkerchief come to life in a bell jar.
Five-year-old Owen Veldhuis, chosen from the audience as an assistant, watched as Wilson played with two handkerchiefs tied together.
“I already know how to do it. I have it at home,” Owen said, adding he had seen Toy Story 1, 2 and 3.
“It was kind of fun,” he said after his part was done.
Also in the opening ceremonies was Daniel Fewings, who played for the third year in a row. He is known as a guitarist and improv artist who runs his own Children’s Theatre Worskhop.
This year he was also honorary parade marshal for the festival’s Kid’s Parade, along with his partner Rose Aelterman.
Over at Busker Stage 1, the group Strawberry Lemonade and the Preferences played a medley of songs in various styles.
Meredith Wood from Simcoe played keyboards, while Rob Mills, also from Simcoe, played acoustic guitar, and Bill Verutis, from Waterford, played the drums.
A fourth member of the group was cellist Alanah Wood from Brantford.
Their songs included Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, the jazz tunes Hot Note and My Funny Valentine and the Broadway hit When I See an Elephant.
“It’s a little windy today, but it’s fun” said Meredith Wood. “I see the weather hasn’t turned people away.”
After that group had finished, the stage was taken over by acoustic guitar soloist Monique Hunsley from Brantford, who performed the western standard Jolene.
“I think this festival is amazing,” she said. “We should have more cities doing festivals like this one.”
At Busker Stage 2, Maddy McKenzie from Oakland, sang the poignant Story of Us by Taylor Swift.
McKenzie was a busker on Saturday, a performer on the Main Stage on Sunday, and was also on the youth performer stage for an hour.
After her, Katherine Czerlau-Lima of Port Dover performed a range of songs, including Don’t Get Your Back Up by Sarah Harmer and Folsom Prison Blues by Johnny Cash.
“It’s a great opportunity to express what you love doing,” Czerlau-Lima said of her chance to play in the Lynn River festival.
“I wasn’t going to do much music this year, but this festival came up. I did it last year and I really liked it. So, here I am again, doing it and loving it.”