Summertime in the Belgrades
Buttermilk Hill: A Belgrade Tradition Returns
by Esther J. Perne
"We're really excited about bringing this tradition back," say Molly Gawler, one of the new generation who is reviving the Annual Buttermilk Hill Old Time Music Show. The one-day festival returns, rain or shine, on Sunday, August 15, after a five-year hiatus.
Molly grew up on Buttermilk Hill, which is home to many of the extended Gawler family; she grew up helping with the show that is named after this scenic hilltop setting; and she grew up performing with her parents John and Ellen and sisters Edith and Elsie in The Gawler Family Band.
Having come into her own as a musician and dancer, Molly at age twenty is a moving force in bringing the Buttermilk Hill festival back. "I really missed it," she says. Although a lot of young friends were part of the impetus, she singles out her boyfriend Peter Chamberlain, guitarist and dancer, and Ed Howe, fiddler and sound technician for the show, as the two that helped her decide it was time.
Started in 1974, the Old Time Music Show had an impressive and popular twenty-five year first run. The traditional folk music coupled with the scenic farm setting and the good, wholesome family entertainment were part of the attraction. The other part was the enthusiasm of the Gawler family and their own great love of music.
The original festival was born when Molly's father John and her aunt Sue Gawler were listening to folk and blues music in a Waterville restaurant and discussed how nice it would be to bring this type of music out of the bars and into a family-oriented, outdoor setting like their family farm. From that simple beginning a name was selected, a makeshift stage constructed, and a show launched rich in traditional music with a lot of fiddling.
For the next twenty-five years the tradition grew. Entertainment was added; the baking and selling of the famous oversized Buttermilk Hill Cookies became another family enterprise; and the next generation the one that is bringing back Buttermilk Hill was born.
"The younger generation has a lot of energy," states Ellen who is thoroughly immersed in the music world of fiddling, square dance calling, and teaching her Pineland Fiddler students.
Billed as a passing of the banjo to the younger generation, the new Old Time Music Show line-up will combine old favorites with "new blossoms." What's new, besides the return of the show itself and a completely rebuilt stage, is the Children's Hour with Rick and Jackie Davis that will start off the day's schedule. Rick's background is Barnum and Bailey; Jackie's is Marcel Marceau. Also for children there will be face painting and a children's parade.
What's "old" is Michael Cooney, a one man folk festival, as well as the Old Grey Goose and the Northern Valley Boys both traditional folk groups and both part of the 25th anniversary swan song of the old Buttermilk Hill.
What's old and new is the emceeing, which will be shared by John and Molly; the passing of the banjo, which as everyone who knows them knows will be more a sharing than a turning over; and the contingent of original and second generation faces who will be working together.
Buttermilk Hill is located on Guptil Road off Route 27 halfway between Belgrade Depot and Belgrade Lakes. Tickets are $10 for adults; $6 for under 12 and over 65. The event will be held rain or shine the barn is ready.