In the past 29 years, fiddle players and fiddle enthusiasts have gathered in Lyons Community Park for fiddle contests, jamming and fiddle performing.
'I have always marveled at how people who are so different can be brought together by the unifying power of music,' said Georgianne Haring of the Lyons Fiddle Festival Committee. 'We have all strived to make differences in occupations, philosophy and social status disappear in the joy of music and so it does at the Lyons Fiddle Festival.'
Arlan and Donna Schwoyer, of Lyons, set in motion the creation of the first fiddle festival in the early 1980s.
Their mission was 'to let people know the park was there, provide some entertainment and compliment the annual fall car show. On Sunday, June 5, 1983, with a budget of $300 and a borrowed hay wagon, the festival was born,' according to the fiddle festival website. 'People came, out of curiosity, or to hear a favorite group, or to support a family member. For whatever reason, 500 people enjoyed the music, the fellowship and, of course, the Pennsylvania Dutch home cooking.'
The event continued yearly until 2006 after the Scwoyers resigned, not able to produce the annual event. No festival was held that year.
'But in 2007, Suzie Reed, (who has now passed away) with the help of others, revived the festival,' said Haring, fiddle festival committee treasurer.
One of Haring's fondest memories of the festival was 'being able to help Suzie Reed, who is the festival's true champion, make her dream of reviving the festival come true.'
Reed, who was a borough council person, was able to recruit many of the original volunteers, and with an influx of new volunteers, new ideas and a new vision, the 2007 festival was held with record-breaking attendance, according to the festival website.
'It has grown from a few fiddlers on a hay wagon to an event receiving national recognition and becoming one our state's major music events,' said Haring.
While the event has grown to attract more than 138,000 spectators every year, one thing remains the same.
'It is a low cost, family-oriented event that is American folklore at its best,' said Haring.
One of the highlights of the festival's history, Haring said, was that the late Senator Mike O'Pake declared the Lyons Fiddle Festival 'The Fiddle Festival Capitol of Pa.'
Held this year on Sept. 16 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the festival includes musical entertainment, an open fiddle contest, Pennsylvania Dutch style cooking featuring iron kettle soups and pig roast, craft vendors, bluegrass gospel service, quilt raffle and impromptu 'jammers' throughout the grounds. Co-hosting the event are WTAP's 'Uncle Jeffrey' Tapler and Keith Brintzenhoff .
A new element for 2012 is yodeling with 'East Side' Dave Kline helping 25 audience members graduate from Yodel University.
A big part of the festival is the fiddle contest, an open competition for three age groups to compete for awards and cash prizes. A variety of fiddle music is performed by children as young as 3 to seniors as old as 94. Over the years more than 580 fiddlers have competed in the contest with many going on to have careers in the music industry, according to the Fiddle Festival Committee.
Fiddle performances are also a big element of the widely attended festival from traditional bluegrass to folk tunes and country. This years' lineup includes Chasing Blue, from Boston, Mass., performing a mix of original and traditional bluegrass; Ari and Mia, also from the Boston area, playing folk tunes in a unique style; The Zepp Family Band, from East Texas, Pa., entertaining with acoustic instrumentals and vocals; and Kendal Conrad from Pottstown adds a little country flavor.
Lyons Park and Recreational Department presents the Lyons Fiddle Festival every September as its main fundraiser for the park.
'The Lyons Community Park receives no state or county support, all maintenance, updates and all community activities are entirely funded by the festival,' she said.
Proceeds of the festival go into the park and the community. Most of the money is used toward the park. Revenues generated from the festival have enabled the park department to reconstruct the Veteran's Memorial, finance the addition of permanent rest room facilities, maintain and improve the playground area, update and improve the pavilion, dredge the stream and pond, build a memorial to the town's tornado victims and are currently being proposed to help finance a memorial walking path.
Parking fees go to the Lyons Fire Company Truck Crew and Kutztown Hobos.
The family event is handicapped accessible.
For more information, visit www.lyonsfiddlefest.com.