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Old Fiddlers’ Picnic News Article

Old Fiddlers’ Nostalgia Draws 12,000 to Hemlock Park

From Democrat and Chronicle, 1962

Written by Thom Babe. Rediscovered by Dick Jopson.

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Old fiddlers and country music groups performed on the platform at left before this standing-room-only crowd at Hemlock Park. In the background can be seen some of 2,200 parked cars.

An isolated tragedy somewhere in the South, the fragments of a forgotten love affair, a little corny joke that someone set to music - this was what brought between 10,000 and 12,000 persons to Hemlock Park yesterday.

The old fiddlers started it more than 30 years ago, and the Old Fiddlers’ Picnic Association has continued it ever since, before bigger and bigger crowds.

But the music now, at the annual picnic judging by the program of some 40 groups who performed yesterday, has become something more than individual fiddlers scraping the bottom of their instruments for a tune.

“It’s fold music,” said George Church of Newark, perched on the hood of his car at the periphery of a sprawling and attentive crowd. Being a native of West Virginia, Church knows and loves the kind of “country” music which has become the center of the picnic program in recent years.

“Back home, they take stuff that’s actually happening,” Church explained. “Like a little girl gets lost in the Blue Ridge mountains, or somebody falls in a well, or even a love affair that doesn’t end happily. They take that stuff that just happened and make a song of it, from the heart.”

That’s the ballad, with its bitter-sweet melody. The other side of the coin is something with a fearsome beat, underscored by a puffing accordion, a slightly out-of-tune piano, and banjos and guitars which are more beaten than played.

The result of the combined sad and happy music could be seen in the face of one man who made his way to the platform and shoved a dollar bill in the hand of Harry Schoff of Honeoye Falls, master of ceremonies, saying, “This is for all the hillbilly people of the western world.”

A continuous program which ran from noon until 10 p.m. filled the parking lot at one time with 2,200 cars, Livingston County Sheriff’s deputies said. And every shade tree, flat spot, knoll and ridge was covered, lawn chair to lawn chair, with relaxed spectators.

Picnic association officers, including President Mort Post of Henrietta, said that a rebirth of interest in the kind of music performed at the picnic was responsible for the increasingly larger turnouts. “It’s a revival of the community spirit,” Schoff said, “when people went once a year to a festival to meet their neighbors.”

Whatever the reason, the “neighborhood” of the picnic had grown yesterday to include groups from as far away as Pennsylvania and Ohio.

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