Local music festival Canadian one-of-a-kind

Students from the Confederation Street School Rhythm Band pose for a photo while competing in the 1953 Lambton County Music Festival. This image, courtesy of the Lambton County Archive, is a contender for a Centennial book celebrating Sarnia’s first 100 years as a city.

Churches and schools will rings with music when the Lambton County Music Festival returns for an amazing 85th year.

More than 500 participants have signed up to compete at six locations in Sarnia between April 21 and May 1.

Few organizations survive 85 years, and even fewer do so with the independence of the Lambton County Music Festival.

“I’m not sure what, but we must be doing something right,” said festival spokesperson Joyce Manton.

The festival has never had a sponsor, making it a one-of-a-kind in Canada.

It costs more than $26,000 to stage the event, money raised through donations and the interest on prior bequests. Keeping it all running smoothly are dozens of committed volunteers.

“We’ve stayed independent and we’ve been able to make it go,” Manton said.

Festival entrants are of all ages and vie for prize money and more than 80 trophies. They also receive performance critiques from adjudicators, with the top three in each category announced immediately.

The best go on to perform at the Stars of the Festival Concert.

Categories cover a wide range of music, from bands to barbershop and piano to choirs.

This year’s venues are SCITS and St. Patrick’s high schools; Central United, St. Giles and Dunlop United churches; and the Sarnia Library Auditorium.

Admission to all sessions is free, but donations at the door are welcome. Programs, $3, are available at the door or Van Goozen Music.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Stars of the Festival Concert

WHO: Performances by Festival winners, presentation of special awards.

WHEN: Tuesday, May 13, 7 p.m.

WHERE: SCITS

COST: $3 Adults, $1 students