Frank Hayden 64, Alva Reed 84 and Charles Pierson 80 at the Fiddler’s Picnic in 1953.
When Alva Reed of Richmond and two of his cronies, Charles Pierson and Frank Hayden, got together at Alva’s farm home 20 years ago to play some old-time jigs, little did they dream that this was the beginning of an annual round-up that was to draw together thousands every year on the third Sunday of August. But so it turned out to be, and last Sunday, the 16th, Hemlock Park could not accomodate the crowd. How many were there, you guess; but the estimate ran from 4,000 to 7,000. At any rate, they were packed in like the proverbial sardines, and the cars were solid in the big field east of the park, as well as at other points. For 20 years, it’s said, the weather has been right up to snuff the third Sunday in August, so that there has never yet been a postponement of the old fiddlers round-up.
Elmer Wells 88, was the oldest fiddler.
Of course the founders were there - the 84-year-old Alva, who now lives at 46 Pioneer Street, Rochester, with his banjo, bones and bells; 80-year-old Charlie Pierson of 36 Rowley Street, Rochester, and 64-year-old Frank Hayden of 177 Sunset Boulevard, Rochester, with their fiddles. And did they get a kick out of it! Several thousand folks, old and young, out for an event which has now become an institution; something that started as a little recreation among a few friends who liked to get music out of their strings; then became so popular it outgrew the accommodations of the Reed farm, moved to Powder Mill Park in Monroe County, and then to Hemlock Lake Park.
Matt Barry of Rochester, who succeeded Mr. Reed as president a few years ago, was the announcer at Sunday’s doings, and he was kept busy in this capacity from the time Betty Larned of Hemlock sang the National anthem at noon till the platform program ended at 8 p.m. And then there were two hours of square dancing in the pavillion, with music by Donald Stumbo’s Sunset Roamers. Sometime during the afternoon time was found to elect officers for the current year, and Mr. Barry was quickly renamed president, with Vincent Carroll of Rochester, secretary; Roy Swan of Canadice, treasurer; and Donald Stumbo of Richmond, Harry Schoof of Honeoye Falls, and Morton Post of Henreitta vice-presidents.
Ed Gascon dancing at the Fiddler’s Picnic.
On a big platform erected for the occasion the performers did their stuff, with the announcer taking down the entries as they came along. All kinds were there, from the six-year-old tap dancer to the 88-year-old self-taught fiddler, Elmer Wells of Honeoye Falls, and the 82-year-old Ed Gascon of Rochester, a former song and dance man with the once famous Lou Dockstatter Minstrels. Gascon, dapper and spry as a youngster in spite of his three score and 20, came up from Rochester with a big oldsters club delegation from the Danforth recreation Center - 160 of them, four busloads - and they did some singing too. A bag-piper, hillbilly bands in costume, acrobats, 12-year-old Bruce King from Rushville with his remarkable two-string harmony on the fiddle, a left-hand fiddler and guitarist - on and on they came, no end; that is hardly any end.
And speaking of end, that’s what happened to the food prepared by the Sanderson Class of the Hemlock Methodist Church. They were swamped as usual, and it was nip and tuck to keep up with the requirements of the hungry, always eating crowd.
But the big event finally came to an end, Matt Barry turned off his P. A. system, the crowd gradually grew smaller and smaller, the eight-to-80-year-old square dancers snapped their instrument cases shut, and once more quiet and peace fell upon the moonlit shores of Hemlock Lake.