Legends and legacy take the stage at Riverton Hootenanny
By Jay Boaz
Originally published in the Interlake Enterprise July 5, 2017
The difference between a news article and an editorial is that in a news article, the author is to remain impartial and present the facts of the story, devoid of passion or personal observation. In an editorial, the author is free to express their thoughts and feelings on a particular topic or subject.
It was about halfway through the Riverton Hootenanny Sunday night that I made the decision to write an editorial.
While I started the night diligently taking notes to present to you who performed what song and stressed about which of the five different ways to spell Johannesson I needed to use, I found myself making a lot of little notes about things I observed.
Like how the couple sitting next to me whispered to each other “That’s our song” when the Whiskey Jacks & Friends performed “Four Strong Winds”.
Or how excited someone in front of me got when Sol Sigurdson started talking about Howardville.
I have notes for multiple songs that the crowd seemed to know all the words and sang along.
I saw tears, some of joy, some in remembrance of those no longer with us. Hugs, handshakes, and laughter were abound.
I was struck by the storytelling in the music, telling old tales of the area I had never heard before. There was far, far more substance to all of the songs sung than you’ll find on any Top 40 list these days.
And I might have to buy the audio CD of the concert just to hear Fred Oleson perform “Granny” again.
While I grew up in Riverton, my family doesn’t have deep roots in the community; I was one of around three people in high school that didn’t have to worry about accidentally dating a cousin. So while I don’t have generations of family history in the community like the majority of the audience did, I could still feel this event was really, really special.
There are rare times when a small community comes together and feels truly united. The last, and maybe only, time I’ve really felt this was the flood of 2011, where Riverton’s old orange walking bridge was destroyed. I remember racing against the river as the whole community worked together; everyone played a role, whether it was laying sandbags, loading trucks, filling sandbags, driving around to give food and water to the other volunteers, everyone pulled up their socks and helped each other.
I had the same feeling tonight, of a community coming together as one, but this time, thankfully, for a joyous reunion instead of a natural disaster.
The Legacy of the Lions group put on a fabulous event, with approximately 700 people cramming into the Riverton Hall (I didn’t even know you could fit that many people in there). The funds raised from the concert will be used towards purchasing an Audio/Visual system for the Hall. I speak from experience when I say no community can fundraise like Riverton can, thus I have no doubt that the only thing that can rival the financial success of the evening will be the emotions it generated.
Now I don’t want all of my aforementioned note taking to go to waste, so for those who couldn’t make it here is a short description of what happened Sunday night. The nearly four hour concert was split into three acts. The first act featured the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the Mates members, showcasing an amazing amount of musical talent on fiddle, guitar, piano, drums, and vocals. The second act belonged to the headliners of the Hootenanny era in the 60’s, playing hits from their heyday. The third act was designated for tributes to past performers, some still with us, some not. And while he’s known for his hockey talents rather than music, a special verse was added to “This Land is Your Land” in honour of the Riverton Rifle, Reggie Leech, who was in attendance with his family.
Everyone involved deserves a clap on the back and thanks for putting together an amazing evening. And I have to agree with emcee Rod “Roddy” Palson, I’ve never seen so many people content to not have a beer for four hours in the Riverton hall before and doubt I will ever again.