What a Ways We’ve Come: the 19th Annual Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival

Joseph Saroyan warms up with the Manhattan Valley Ramblers.
Joseph Saroyan warms up with the Manhattan Valley Ramblers.

The Saroyan family returned from the 19th Annual Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival in New Hampshire where my duo, the Manhattan Valley Ramblers, performed. Joseph, who will be three years old in September, never let go of his his 1/16th scale fiddle while we were there. His almost constant sawing on the slackened strings made him known to just about everyone in attendance. When he approached the Gibson Brothers backstage, he said hello to all of them by name with only a little help from Dad. Clayton Campbell, who has fiddled in the band for eight years, watched Joe with the fiddle and bow and affirmed my sense that the time has come for lessons.

Bill, John and Joe working at the MVR merchandise table.

Mike Robinson introduced MVR before the morning set and had the whole audience repeat the words “New York City?!” every time he said we were from New York City just like the Pace Picante Sauce commercials from the mid-1990’s. Evan Carl, also an emcee, has posted fantastic photos of performers and attendees on Facebook. The Pemi Valley family extended themselves to make sure the Saroyans and the Manhattan Valley Ramblers felt like one of their own. I was never fortunate enough to meet the festival’s founder, Russ Marsden, who passed away in January, but his generous spirit was all around.