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Pasture Pickin’ Jamboree

Music, fun and friendship brought Birtle alive over the May long weekend, as locals and visitors sat and played awhile at the fifth annual Birdtail Valley Pasture Pickin’ Jamboree.

The jamboree, first held in 2006, celebrates community spirit and camaraderie, as it’s more than “jammers” that enrich the good times shared. With various organizations and businesses hosting events of their own throughout the weekend, it truly is a joint effort of the town keeping the musical past alive.

Featuring bluegrass, traditional country, old-time and gospel music, the event celebrates local culture and heritage, while sharing the richness and diversity of music genres in the region.

Ken Harman who was instrumental in getting the jamboree off the ground five years ago, is still deeply involved and enjoying every minute of it.

“Ken is the president of the Pasture Pickin’ Committee, with Mayor Dwight Stewart serving as secretary and in charge of the sound system,” said Ken’s wife Joy Harman, also a committee member. “Other ladies on the small but dedicated committee are Debbie Naylor, Margaret Ashcroft and Marj Barteaux.”

Having attended “jams” in other communities, Ken, who was relatively new to Birtle at the time felt it would be great to host one, and with the town rallying around his vision it has blossomed into a signature community attraction. The event draws experienced musicians to diamond-in-the-rough locals as they share a passion of traditional music in an acoustic setting.

Pickers are much like cowboys, in that they like to get together, no matter the weather, to share stories, to share a lifestyle and to share a passion.

Reg Jones, the founder of Westman Jams, a non-profit group that prides itself on making everyone feel welcome and at ease, no matter the talent level, finds “jams” to be so much fun. While the music may not be perfect, it’s guaranteed to have toes tapping and hands clapping.

“Upon starting out, we didn’t realize there were so many talented musicians in the area,” said Ken. “The weekend has been revitalizing for some musicians. I know of one fellow in his 80s who hadn’t played since the 1960s, but it’s great to have him and others back sharing talents.”

Joy feels there is a need for such a musical event and is among the reasons why the jamboree has grown substantially. She said although there are no big stars, the hours shared pickin’ and grinnin’ are filled with a great lineup of talent which is videotaped.

“Ken takes the attitude that no musicians – no show, so he strives to make sure everyone is featured,” said Joy. “Being a bluegrass fan and a member of the Manitoba Old-Tyme and Bluegrass Society (MOBS), he also strives to get the best groups to be featured in concert.”

The MOBS was incorporated as a non-profit organization in February 1991. Its purpose is the preservation and promotion of old-time and bluegrass music, fostering the use of acoustic, stringed instruments primarily.

Along with sharing their talent, performers kindly donate their time. And while there is no set admission fee, the funds donated are directed to charities.

Uniting families and friends, this wonderful weekend jamboree has grown to become very successful, thanks to the support of artisans, volunteers and organizations working together.

– Darrell Nesbitt writes from Shoal Lake, Manitoba.

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