The Lyons Fiddle Festival is a non-profit organization run totally with the help of volunteers. Profits from the Festival benefit community activities and help to maintain the park for children.
Some of the accomplishments include a Veteran’s Memorial Monument, the park’s stream was dredged and a stone bridge was built over it. A permanent restroom facility was built along with a memorial to victims of a tornado that had swept through the borough. The park pavilion was improved, equipment for the playground was obtained, and the monies raised helped pay for general maintenance of the park. The Lyons Park does not receive funding from the state or county.
What makes the Lyons Fiddle Festival so important?
A Letter From Erin Dallago, co-chairperson
“I wanted to let you know how much the Fiddle Festival had meant to one person I drove in the golf cart.
Sandy and I passed this woman who was sitting outside the park in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank. She was waiting for her husband who was parking their car. Eventually she wasn’t there any more; she probably waited 30 minutes for her husband. It wasn’t until the end of the day that I saw her again at which point I gave her and her husband a ride back to their car.
As she sat next to me I asked her if she enjoyed the festival and she said oh yes and that they have been coming since the beginning and would bring their kids. She went on to say she was in hospice care and woke up on Sunday and decided she wanted to come one more time. As she was telling her story, her husband was very quiet. I realized later he was crying.
When I got them to their car and said good bye, I realized that was her last time attending this festival and that she had so enjoyed herself for so many years that she wasn’t going to miss it for the world. This put everything in prospective of how this festival had meant so much to many people.”
History of the Lyons Fiddle Festival
“The violin sings and the fiddle dances,
but the most beautiful song is the music
of what we accomplish together.”
The Lyons Fiddle Festival is held in a little park built by the Lyons Borough in 1976 using federal bicentennial funds. It began when Arlan Schwoyer noticed it wasn’t being used much. He wanted the little park to be a great place everyone would enjoy so he started a music festival to compliment the borough’s annual fall car show.
The Lyons Fiddle Festival brought the small town of Lyons into the hearts of people far and wide. Sunday, June 5, 1983, marked the first annual festival with a budget of $300, a borrowed hay wagon, homemade food, and some of the finest fiddling.
Schwoyer was quoted as saying, “We want people to say that Kutztown is three miles north of Lyons. That’s where they’ve got the park and the fiddle festival.”
300 people came out for the music, the fellowship, and the food and the numbers have grown each year since. Folks of all ages were inspired to dust off their old fiddles and play again. From preschoolers to retirees, novice to professional, fiddlers from up and down the east coast have entertained and competed on stage at the festival.
At the rear of the park, under cool shade trees, a bow dances across the strings of a fiddle. Age or experience didn’t matter. People gathered around the fiddler and jammed on their fiddles, mandolins, guitars, washtubs and strings. There were even those who brought boards and jigged in rhythm. Kindred spirits were discovered at the Lyons Fiddle Festival.
A new era for the Lyons Fiddle Festival
It was July 2006, when Schwoyer and his wife, Donna, decided they could no longer continue to produce the festival. Determined to keep the music alive, people still came that year and jammed under those shade trees.
In an article written by Darree Robin Sicher, the late Suzie Reed, borough councilperson, said, “We got so complacent; we didn’t realize what we had.”
Reed got to work and with the help of Keith Brintzenhoff, Keith Weidner, Steve Haring, the Lyons Fire Company and many volunteers both old and new, the festival was reborn September 2007.
In its 36 years, it is estimated that over 170,000 spectators have set up their folding chairs and blankets in the park for entertainment by over 800 contestants and an untold number of jammers. Contestants have even continued on with successful careers in music.
The Lyons Fiddle Festival committee is dedicated to bringing the festival to new levels each year including a live broadcast by CWTAP Internet/TV network.
The History of Lyons
Photo Courtesy of Paul and Ellen Laincz
According to an article that had appeared in the Reading Eagle, March 25, 2002, in 1859, a railroad official planned to make Lyons Borough a big city bustling with activity. It was considered the railroad line’s half-way point between Reading and Allentown.
The article noted that a farm owned by the Bowers family was recognized as the mid-point of the rail line, but in order for the station to be built on the land, the station and the town that would develop around it would have to be named Bowers. Although Bowers did appear later, residents did not like the idea.
M. Evelyn Lyons, chief engineer of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, moved the train station’s location to the west and named the site after himself.
Lyon Station served as a depot for Kutztown until 1870 when another line was built through the larger borough.
Because of the train activity through Lyon Station, by the late 1800’s, tradesmen who had settled there included a carpenter, a cooper, a shoemaker, a blacksmith, and a cabinetmaker. Nearby mines and furnaces also contributed to the growth bringing in settlers. East Penn Furnaces were situated to the east of Lyons Borough in Maxatawny Township. Sally Ann Furnace was in Rockland Township and the Mary Ann Furnace was in Longswamp Township.
According to the Lyons Borough’s website, Lyon Station was established in 1860 and on June 20, 1927, Lyons was incorporated as a borough.
The Lyons Fiddle Festival is looking for volunteers. Volunteering gets you free admission.
Click Here for a printable version of the 2020 Volunteer Registration Form
The Lyons Fiddle Festival would not be what it is today without the help of volunteers. Volunteers help to set up the day before the festival. They are there first thing in the morning and straight through to the tearing down the day after the festival. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, high school students, Kutztown University students, family and friends from the Lyons Borough and surrounding communities just to name a few are the heroes of the festival. Thank you from the Lyons Fiddle Festival committee!