43 Years of Old Time Music


A constant stream of music, instrument dealers, and food vendors will fill the Johnson County Fairgrounds in celebration of Old Time Music.

Here, Iowans will be immersed in bluegrass, Celtic, American folk, and country music at the Fiddler’s Picnic.

The event, beginning at noon Sept. 15,  is organized by the nonprofit organization the Iowa Friends of Old Time Music.

“The Fiddler’s Picnic started out as a fall get-together for friends to play music at the farm of Keith Dempster,” said Loren Brumm, the treasurer of the Friends of Old Time Music.  “[It’s] a great relaxed family get-together atmosphere.”

As the event continued to grow, it was moved to the Johnson County Fairgrounds to accommodate swelling crowds.

“It’s a tradition in its 43rd year,” said Thomas Raife, the president of the Friends of Old Time Music. “Iowa City’s a very vibrant place for this kind of music. People travel from all over. They come from places like Ames and western Illinois.”

The picnic is one of a number of events hosted by the Friends of Old Time Music to help cultivate the local community’s love for the music.

“Nobody gets paid,” said Marc Janssen, a member of the Goosetown Stringband. “It’s all about coming together and playing with friends.”

Janssen, whose band has played at the picnic in past years, first got involved when he traveled to Iowa City in 2007 and started playing with other musicians in town.

He became more active, began to play at the Fiddler’s Picnic, and eventually achieved a seat on the Friends of Old Time Music’s Board of Directors.

“We have a lot of events [in Iowa City] about arts,” Raife said. “We’re unique in our focus.”

Unlike most music concerts today, Jannsen said, audience members will do more than stand and listen.

“When you go to listen to old-time music, you end up getting very involved,” he said. “You don’t just watch it; you’re a part of it.”

Even though the picnic will be featuring specific styles of music, the Friends of Old Time Music encourages people who might not think they’d be interested to come out anyway.

“Often, if folks don’t think they like old-time music, they come, and listen, and find it’s not what they expected,” Janssen said.

Raife agreed, saying this kind of music is best to encounter live.

“Being able to take in the sound [like this] is a great way to be introduced,” he said. “Our key goal is to not only provide a venue for people who have enjoyed this music their whole lives but also drawing in younger people.”


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