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Striking a Chord at Old Songs Festival

The Old Songs Festival might have some things in common with other festivals in the area, like music and children's entertainment, but festival director Andy Spence believes its cozy atmosphere makes Old Songs unique.

It's not like the big festivals, Spence said. "It's one of the most intimate and friendly festivals in the area."

That's not to say the Old Songs Festival plays to small crowds. Now in its 28th year, the festival is expected to be a big draw at the Altamont Fairgrounds Friday to Sunday, June 27 to 29. Spence said repeat visitors are common: "Our experience has been, once they get there, they love it and they come back."

The lure of the festival, Spence said, is that there's something for everyone. Even if visitors aren't familiar with the folk, traditional, Celtic and world music and dance performers who are the heart of the weekend, they can enjoy a craft show, food and an assortment of vendors. There are family activities, too, including plenty for the younger set to do, and people can camp out on the fairgrounds for the duration of the festival.

Having been around for nearly 30 years, the festival attracts people from all over, Spence said. And that's not just true of the audience; performers hail from Seattle, British Columbia and Ontario.

Spence said "old songs" generally refers to acoustic music, played on instruments such as harps, accordians and fiddles. Considering the festival's long history, Spence said organizers have a good idea where to go to get musical talent for the weekend.

"We try to have a mixed bag of artistry," she said.

That means the weekend's acts range from Chuck and Albert, billed as "musical comedy from Prince Edward Island" to the Festival Jug band to Groovemama, a Franco-American stringband.

Also on tap is Le Vent du Nord, a Canadian band that specializes in Quebec traditional music. It's renowned for its high-energy shows.

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