Music and art ‘ramble’ on in Batavia
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Music and art ‘ramble’ on in Batavia

Jul 3, 2023

BATAVIA — Except for a little rain Saturday afternoon, musicians were able to delight a crowd during the annual Batavia Ramble and Explore Art Music Festival downtown on Saturday.

Peggy Lecuyer, sitting in the corner off to the side of the Jackson Square stage, said she had not seen the Ghost Riders before.

“It was fantastic. It was a great set,” she said. “Good energy on the stage — fun people, great musicians. I love the last one they played, ‘Copperhead Road,’ a Steve Earle song, one of my favorites.”


Tom Ryan of Batavia, scheduled to play later that afternoon with others as Tom Ryan & Friends, was taking in the Ghost Riders set.

“I’ve seen them since back in the ‘70s. I’m pretty familiar with their music,” he said. “I’ve been playing music with Bill Pitcher, who’s playing bass with them.”

Ryan said the Ghost Riders cover song he liked the best was “Passionate Kisses.”

“It’s a Mary Chapin Carpenter song,” he said.

As far as the music Tom Ryan & Friends was planning to play when they hit the stage, Ryan said it was to be Americana music, John Prine songs, country songs from people such as Merle Haggard.

GO ART! Education/SCR Director Mary Jo Whitman said there was plenty going on Saturday which the rain did not affect. There were performances on Jackson Street by African drummers, Native American dancers, face painting and caricature drawing. crafts and Hula Hoops.

“That was the best part. The African drummers were doing a workshop when it started to rain and they continued ... A bunch of people just started dancing outside in the rain, right in front of the tent that they were at,” Whitman said. “It was fun for us.”

She said Saturday afternoon that she hoped to see more people come to Jackson Square after the rain passed. “I think the threat of rain held people away,” she said. “We’ve definitely seen a big influx since the rain stopped.”

Ramble organizer Steve Kowalcyk said the rain began during one of the band performances.

“They had to end just a little bit early,” he said. “We are pretty much back on schedule now that the rain stopped. We typically get the biggest crowd around the dinner hour. That’s usually when most people show up.”

Kowalcyk said the Jackson Square improvements are coming.

“We were hoping to be done this year, but it didn’t happen in time,” he said. “We know at some point, we’re going to get a new stage back here and a roof on top of that.”

As far as a second stage at Jackson Street, Kowalcyk said more sponsors and funding are needed.

“We were close to getting a bigger stage this year, but we just couldn’t afford it,” he said. “I know business is tough this year. People are hurting. We don’t want to bug too many people and too many sponsors over and over. Hopefully next year, we’ll have a little bit of money raised from T-shirts, some of the raffles, some other events, maybe we’ll have a little bit of money left over.

“The costs of putting on free events to the public are ever increasing each year. We are always looking for more local businesses to partner with us.”

Kowalcyk said the money they raised Saturday from T-shirt sales and raffles will help local kids. The Ramble plans to get some local kids guitar lessons.

“We’re going to partner with a music store, Jams Music, which donated a nice guitar today (Saturday),“ he said. “We’re going to talk to them about getting some lessons for some kids. At some point, we’re going to be looking for some kids to donate some lessons to. We’re going to be reaching out to the public and seeing if they have any needy kids who want to learn a new instrument, possibly and maybe we can help them out and get them started on their way. The whole point of this event is basically to get musicians from the area to play together. Everyone’s getting a little bit older. We want to get some younger kids to learn some instruments so we can keep doing this 20 years from now.”

Tammy Hathaway, president of the GO ART! Board of Directors, said she had some friends who were going to be in bands on the Jackson Street stage.

“I love to see all of our artisans and lots of dear friends,” Hathaway said.


Among the great bands were Zackstreet Boys, she said.

“It’s definitely a band not to be missed,” Hathaway said. “They’re a lot of fun ... but all the bands are. We have fantastic musical talent in our area, as we have great artisans.”

Bill Schutt of WCS creative art had set up and was waiting for people to start arriving at Jackson Street.

“I’ve set up my metal arts stuff and talking to some people,” he said. “Everything’s out of recycled material, most of it with an industrial or historic background. It’s what I like to do,” he said. “I’ve been doing pieces on consignment. This is the only event that I’ve done. I was here last year and then again this year. I’ve definitely had people stop by and look and talk. Everybody likes the idea and appreciates the work that goes into them.”

GO ART! Explore Art had activities going on near the corner of Main and Jackson streets, including the Orleans County String Band. The band was made up of Deb Deuel, Kathy Vandemortel and Stephen Bland. It played as a group of kids and adults took part in square dancing nearby.

“This kind of music, string band music, has been around here since the 1800s, since Europeans came over and settled,” said GO ART!’s Karen Canning. “Square dancing and this kind of dance is something that’s been around in all of our region since then.”

Within the Orleans County String Band, Deuel is from Barre, Vandemortel from Point Breeze,

“We first started getting together to play for the Barre Square Dance, hence the name Orleans County String Band,” she said.

This was the first time the band played at The Ramble, she said.

Margaret Matthews was the caller as the band played Saturday morning. The square dance caller is the one who announces the dance figures and determines which moves dancers perform on the dance floor.

“I now stick to the New York state area,” she said, saying she used to call at events around the country.

“They just call me when they want to dance,” Matthews said of the string band members.

Canning said the square dancing was part of an old-time dance workshop.

“It’s whoever’s here. They were hear and they wanted to join, so everything that they did today, they learned today, just in the last hour,” she said.

Canning and her husband, Ted, both danced with the group as the string band played.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “I’ve been dancing with my wife for 34 years. The string band, this is the first time I’ve heard them.”

The Cannings have heard other string bands, though, Karen Canning said.

“This kind of dance, we’ve been doing for a long time,” she said. “The first couple is the one to do all the figures. We put ourselves in that spot because we knew we would know what to do, pretty much,” she said. “That’s part of the fun. It’s just learn by doing. It doesn’t take too long to learn.”

Ted Canning provided two steel drum workshops on the sidewalk near Jackson and Main.

GO ART! Board of Directors Vice President Joan Post said GO ART wanted as many kids as possible to come to the tent for the arts and crafts, and performances. It was all presented by GO ART!, she said.

“We invite everybody to come and see the amazing things we have for the community,” she said.

By Brian Quinn,

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