Town Days | Bowing Down Home

As Prince Edward Island modernized, Town Days took on many of the functions in community life that were once the realm of church picnics and school picnics. Just as benefit concerts raise money for personal and family hardships, Town Days gather funds for public causes or initiatives. Like the picnics of old, Town Days raise money by selling foodstuffs and crafts, and through admissions fees to rides and carnival games. Instead of offering old-time dancing as a major attraction, however, Town Days feature local talent shows. As in benefit concerts, a typical Town Day concert features a mixture of fiddling performances, vocal numbers, step-dancing demonstrations (accompanied by local fiddlers), skits, and poetry recitations.

In 1989, I encountered Island fiddling for the first time at a Town Day held in northeastern PEI known as the Monticello Tea Party, whose purpose was to raise funds for the restoration of the district’s old one-room schoolhouse. Several fiddlers played that afternoon on a covered, makeshift stage built onto the back of what was once the local one-room schoolhouse. Among them was George MacPhee, who would later help us find the local home that served in 1991-92 as headquarters for our music and oral history collecting project.

The photos and video selections of the Monticello Tea Party that appear here were filmed in 1991 and ’92.

Marlene MacKinnon Gallant dances at Monticello Tea Party, 1991. Fiddler is George Macphee; Tunes are Duke of Gordon's Birthday, Heather on the Hill, Princess Reel