Fiddlers, guitarists, singers highlight annual UMFK musical event

FORT KENT, Maine — Nearly 50 local and regional musicians gathered Sunday at the University of Maine at Fort Kent’s Fox Auditorium for the annual Fiddlers’ Jamboree.

The more than 150 people in the audience were treated to a mix of traditional and modern folk tunes, French songs, country music and even some dancing.

Norman Bourgoin gets in a bit of practice during a break Sunday at the annual Fiddlers’ Jamboree at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. (Don Eno | SJVT/FhF)

The performances included fiddles, guitars, ukuleles, piano, a mini banjo, washboard, mandolin and even a homemade suitcase bass drum.

Members from the local River Ukes group took part, with a variety of ukuleles and a fiddle.

“It was pretty awesome,” said Jenna Walters, one of the young members of the River Ukes, who played her ukulele and then played some fiddle.

For Norman Bourgoin, who is originally from Fort Kent, but now lives in Presque Isle, playing the fiddle carries on a family tradition.

“My father played violin,” said the 86-year-old, who also plays guitar.

Bourgoin plays regularly with Garold Hanscom’s Wednesday Evening Singers ensemble, a group of American and Canadian fiddlers, guitarists, singers and other musicians.

Hanscom began taking his group to the Fort Kent jamboree in 1995. Since that time, he has brought many young fiddlers and musicians up through the ranks, giving them opportunities to practice, learn and perform in public.

The involvement of youth in the arts, music and performance is one of the things Sunday’s master of ceremonies, Warren Harvey, said he truly appreciated.

“It’s so nice to see the young people up on stage. I love it,” said Harvey, himself a longtime musician in the Fort Kent area.

Joel Ouellette performs a traditional jig during Sunday’s Fiddlers’ Jamboree at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. (Don Eno | SJVT/FhF)

UMFK president John Short told audience members during his welcoming remarks that keeping local culture, including the Acadian and French songs and stories, alive through events such us the Fiddlers’ Jamboree is a vital part of the university’s mission.

Sunday’s performers came from as close as Eagle Lake and Frenchville and as far as Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, and Patten.

For 15-year-old Hannah Boone of Patten. Sunday was her first time performing an original country song on stage, but not her first time performing in public.

“I have been on stage since first grade,” she said. Singing and playing music have always been part of her life, she added.

River Ukes member Jeanne Nadeau has only been playing the ukulele, her first instrument, for about three years. Sunday was her first time taking part in the jamboree.

“I enjoy learning new songs,” she said. “Being part of the group is fun, too. I enjoy all the joking around.”

Being a dancer for the past several years, Sunday’s time on stage was not a big deal for for Sadie Pelletier, although she only started playing the fiddle this year at school.

Prior to the start of the jamboree Fort Kent And Madawaska school music teacher teacher Taylor Martin gave Pelletier and Annabelle Reardon some last minute advice backstage.

Dave Putnam, of Chapman, said he has been playing the fiddle for about 45 years. Most of that has been with family and friends, however, and Sunday was his first time joining in the jamboree.

“It seemed like a fun thing to do on a Sunday afternoon,” he said during the performance’s intermission.

Some foot-stomping fun was had by all on Sunday, musicians and audience members alike.

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