The Rotary Club of Shelburne for the second year in a row, has postponed its largest fundraiser, the Heritage Music Festival (HMF) and 70th Canadian Open Old Time Fiddle Championship.
The local Rotary Club made the decision at the end of February to postpone the annual festival until the first week of August 2022. In a notice to the public, Rotary Club of Shelburne said the decision was not made lightly but with the ongoing uncertainly with the COVID-19 pandemic, that it was the “correct decision” to make.
Bobbi Ferguson, a member of the Rotary Club of Shelburne, spoke with the Free Press about the local festival and the group’s decision to hold-off on the event.
“It’s a festival that pretty much put Shelburne on the map, it’s something that has been 70 years in the making,” said Ferguson.
The first fiddle contest in Shelburne took place in August of 1951, pitched by Shelburne local Cliff McIntosh. After the first fiddle contest the local festival began to grow to include more classes in the competition, a beauty contest, and the Fiddle Parade. In 2016 the festival was rebranded to the Heritage Music Festival (HMF) and the Canadian Open Old Time Fiddle Championship. The Rotary Club of Shelburne decided after the rebrand that the 67th year of the contest would be the last, but support from a number of professional fiddlers saw the contest continue. The festival in 2020 would have marked the 70th anniversary of the contest.
Despite the nostalgia behind the annual event, Ferguson said the local organization knew they couldn’t guarantee an audience, which is how they make revenue from the event.
Revenue that the Rotary Club of Shelburne makes goes directly back into local initiatives.
“We need 700, 800, 900 people to come to our Friday night event and I can’t see, first, the government allowing us to have that many inside and second of all, I don’t think anybody feels that comfortable yet being in crowds that large,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson also noted that tickets are sold for the festival in May, but the event isn’t held until late summer.
“I still think people will be very apprehensive about buying tickets to something that’s in August in May,” said Ferguson.
With the Heritage Music Festival as their largest fundraiser postponed for the second time, Ferguson also spoke about the fiscal reality that the Rotary Club is facing. He said when it comes to budgeting, they’ll have to make cuts on funding local projects, groups, and individuals.
“We can’t give as much as we normally do,” said Ferguson. “We’re going to have to look at that and prioritize or basically say ‘this is the amount of money we have, first come first serve.’”
The Heritage Music Festival and the 70th Canadian Open Old Time Fiddle Championship was previously postponed in 2020 and rescheduled for this year also due to the pandemic.
While the Heritage Music Festival has been postponed to next year, Ferguson said they have plans to host outdoor and socially distanced events for the community throughout 2021.
A drive-in musical event is currently in the works to take place at Fiddle Park on May 15. The Rotary Club of Shelburne is also hosting a golf tournament on June 10 with the proceeds going towards the Splash Pad Project. Rhinestone Cowgirl: The Music of Dolly Parton starring Leisa Way and the Wayward Wind Band is scheduled as a drive-in event for August 8.
At this time, the Rotary Club of Shelburne is still planning to hold the Heritage Music Festival come 2022.
Paula Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shelburne Free Press