Big Field Traditions Inc. (BFT) is keeping the rolling green hills of Rollo Bay alive with the sound of music during the summer months. The Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival has attracted thousands of visitors to rural PEI for more than 40 years. Now a third generation of musicians continues the tradition, which is a local economy booster, and offers other event options as well.
The legendary Fiddler, Joe Pete Chaisson of Bear River near Souris, was instrumental in creating the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival in 1976.
Joe Pete’s children, Kevin, Kenny, Catherine, Dianne, Donna, Darlene, Gloria, Shirley, along with Peter and Mary, who have since passed away, continued to be the main organizers of the music festival, allowing it to thrive for decades.
When Peter Chaisson passed away in July 2015, a third Chaisson generation founded Big Field Traditions Inc., with brothers Andrew and Stanley Chaisson, brothers JJ and Koady Chaisson, brothers Tim, Brent, and Darren Chaisson, and Kyle Chaisson.
“This is a family passion and shared experience among many music lovers in our community,” says Stanley.
The eight first cousins who founded BFT, along with several other relatives, performed on stage at a young age at the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival and some became accomplished, award-winning musicians.
“After Dad’s passing, the Festival’s future was in jeopardy, and the fate of the ‘Big Field’ as all the grandkids called it, was unclear,” says Stanley.
“The third generation came together quickly and decided to develop a not-for-profit called Big Field Traditions. This allowed us to purchase the land and work together with the entire family to ensure the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival could continue for many more years, and another generation would enjoy the magic and memories of the ‘Big Field’.”
Community services support
Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC) assists in the creation of small businesses and in the expansion or modernization of existing businesses by providing financial and technical services to entrepreneurs.
The BFT founders contacted Martina MacDonald, Executive Director of CBDC East, and Helen Antle, Business Development Officer of CBDC East, housed at the Rural Action Centre, Main Street, Montague.
“CBDC was helpful in organizing our group and giving us an understanding of the structure of a not-for-profit and the designated roles that come with it,” says Stanley.
“They provided the technical support we needed to get started on the right foot. They also assisted us with essential financial funding, something that was crucial to the development of a planning process moving forward.
“Helen was very knowledgeable and helped guide our relatively inexperienced group to understand how we should structure our not-for-profit, including specific roles and expectations.
“She also gave valuable advice about strategies for a business plan, focusing on progressive phases of development. I would highly recommend her to anyone interested in starting a not-for-profit organization.
“We knew that our energy and passion for BFT would bring about a positive future, but there’s no doubt that the services provided by CBDC were instrumental in paving the way for a successful start.”
Big Field Traditions 2019
Rollo Bay Music Camp will be held July 15 to 19, and the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival will be held July 19 to 21.
The site also offers bookings for weddings, family reunions, and events throughout the summer and fall.
For more information about services at the Rural Action Centre, visit www.ruralactioncentres.ca.