Berks County musician Stephanie Grace opens 32nd annual Lyons Fiddle Festival

Roxanne Richardson - Lyons Fiddle Festival 
Berks County musician Stephanie Grace, 18, was the opening act for this year's Lyons Fiddle Festival on Sept. 20. Grace is pictured with Keith Brintzenhoff, Festival committee member and entertainer.
Roxanne Richardson - Lyons Fiddle Festival Berks County musician Stephanie Grace, 18, was the opening act for this year's Lyons Fiddle Festival on Sept. 20. Grace is pictured with Keith Brintzenhoff, Festival committee member and entertainer.
Roxanne Richardson - Lyons Fiddle Festival 
Victor Capozzi, 13, Carlisle, has been playing since he was 4. This was his first time at the Lyons Fiddle Festival.
Roxanne Richardson - Lyons Fiddle Festival Victor Capozzi, 13, Carlisle, has been playing since he was 4. This was his first time at the Lyons Fiddle Festival.

Stephanie Grace was only 3-years-old when she first picked up an eggbeater as her little microphone. By the time she was 7, she was singing in public and by the age of 11, she was doing gigs. Sunday, Sept. 20, Grace, now 18, was the opening act for the 32nd annual Lyons Fiddle Festival.

“It’s so neat because I think kids my age don’t really appreciate just how talented these musicians are. It’s neat to just be in this audience and to be able to appreciate these very talented banjo players and mandolin and violin and it’s just incredible,” said Grace.

Keith Brintzenhoff, MC along with Uncle Jeffrey Tapler, said the Lyons Fiddle Festival is so important because it promotes continuation of fiddling. “That’s the obvious answer, and it involves young people in this so the heritage gets passed on generation to generation.”

Brintztenhoff, who helped start the Festival 33 years ago, said the interesting thing was that they had few kids in the contest and lots of old fiddlers. Now it’s 180 degrees around. They have a ton of kids and a few in the old age category.

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Sarah W. Larsen, aka Hurricane Hoss, won grand champion this year and will also have the honors to perform at the opening act for Natalie MacMaster in March at KU Presents.

Erin Dallago, co-chairperson, said the Lyons Fiddle Festival is a tradition that was started and they always want to keep tradition going.

“Number two, which is really important, is that the work that we do in our communities we couldn’t do unless we would tax the people that live there,” said Dallago. “Many of our people that live in our communities are older and add tax base to them is just not something we want to do.”

Profits from the Lyons Fiddle Festival go towards an Easter egg hunt, a Halloween parade and party, a tree-lighting ceremony with refreshments, repairs in the park and equipment.

“We’re trying to actually add a volunteer path that is in honor of all volunteers, and in particular, Suzie Reed, and we’re trying to raise funds to do that. It’s like a $40,000 walking path,” said Dallago.

One of the traditions at the Lyons Fiddle Festival is the presentation of the Suzanne Reed Memorial Award to volunteer(s) of the year.

“This award is in honor of Suzie Reed who understood the value of giving the most precious gift, her time,” said Erin Dallago, co-chairperson. “This year’s Suzie Reed award goes to our Ozzie and Harriet, Mace and Darlene Arndt.”

Dallago said Reed lost her battle with ALS a few years ago and since then the committee remembers her through this award. The award means so much to the festival and the committee so when they vote they take the vote very seriously. Dallago took a moment to acknowledge the passing of their 2013 awardee, Merlin Ozzie Oswald who passed away last month.

Dallago said this year’s award was given to two members of the community who epitomize volunteerism and who happen to be husband and wife. She said in Lyons, you couldn’t mention one without flowing into the other one; they are inseparable. Over the years of the festival, the Arndts made sure the festival had electricity, organized the souvenirs and volunteers for pre-event set up and fixing things at the park. They are the go-to couple behind the team.

“I just want to say thank you. We have to tell you that Suzie really was an inspiration to all of us,” said Darlene Arndt.

“It’s a wonderful experience for community, for togetherness. It’s for uniting people of all sizes, shapes, and income and it’s just a marvelous opportunity for family,” said Julie Longacre, whose father had played with Shorty Long and the Jersey Horns.

Monte Schutter said the Lyons Fiddle Festival is the nicest bunch of people you’ll find.

“When you talk about a community, just Lyons here, they just do a really nice job. Every year it gets better, ” said Schutter. “It’s just very nice; music is nice; food is nice; people are nice.”

Larry Loyko, Glen Olden, is a revolutionary war re-enactor who believes in preserving the music festivals.

“You don’t hear this on the radio; you don’t see this in stage shows anywhere. It’s only in places like this,” said Loyko. “I am 100 percent self-taught. I am not a musician. I know nothing about music. That’s the great thing. We all get together and have a good time.”

Allan Spatz looked up from preparing a large ham for pulled pork. He offered a piece of juicy tender meat and talked about the festival.

“This one here is great especially for the musicians. It brings a lot of musician out that don’t normally play so it’s a great festival,” said Spatz.

Eugene Rohrbach is a big Hank Williams fan and loves the kind of music found at the Lyons Fiddle Festival. He talked about how Hank Williams wrote songs based on his mood.

“If he was drunk he’d write, ‘There’s a tear in my beer,’” sang Eugene Rohrbach, Boyertown. “If he was going to church, he’d sing, ‘Can’t ya hear the blessed Savior calling you?”

Rohrbach said the Fiddle Festival was important for promoting kids in music.

“An example of it is Travis Wetzel. He was the first winner of the Fiddle Festival, wasn’t he, and look what he does today,” said Rorhbach.

The Lyons Fiddle Festival is totally run with the help of volunteers including the Boy Scout Troop 585, New Jerusalem, who volunteered to help with the trash and then sell apple cider. Their troop leader, Art Kayhart, said volunteering at events gives the boys service hours and the money earned helps them with troop equipment, camp, and other activities plus it gives them the chance to see events like the Fiddle Festival.

“I really enjoy it. I like just that it’s fun to listen to the music, but then we’re still cleaning up the trash and keeping the grounds clean,” said Isaac Manwiller, 12, Landis Store.

Steve Walker, Hex Hollow Music, has sold instruments at the Lyons Fiddle Festival since 1987. His booth had pink, purple, green, and traditionally stained fiddles lined up on a table. He also writes preview articles for the Berks Jazz Fest. Walker said the Fiddle Festival brings everybody together in a peaceful and friendly manner and promotes music in Berks County.

Sept. 20, 2015 Lyons Fiddle Fest award winners:

Grand Champion

Sarah Larsen

Class I (0-12 yrs.)

First Place - Sophia Delong

Second Place - Eleanor Clemons-Cope

Third Place - Maizy Funk

Class II (13-17 yrs.)

First Place - Andrew Vogt

Second Place - Hannah Zettlemoyer

Third Place - Angelina Phillips

Class III(18-100yrs)

First Place - Sarah Larsen

Second Place - Sasha Hsuczyk

Third Place - Melissa Martin