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'Fun time': Music nights in Rugby offer trip down memory lane

'There is nothing like this around,' says organizer of bi-weekly music night events that pack Rugby Community Hall and rekindle memories of yore

The sounds of the past reverberate inside a packed former schoolhouse built in 1872, bringing smiles to faces of neighbours and visitors alike as time seems to stand still — at least for a little while.

Every other Saturday night, in the small village of Rugby in Oro-Medonte Township, people gather at the Rugby Community Hall just like they did decades ago to sing songs, enjoy music, tell jokes, have a laugh, and enjoy refreshments afterwards. 

“It’s my first time here. I feel like I’ve gone back in time to the 1950’s,” said Mary Lynne Hamilton after a recent Saturday night event. 

The bi-weekly gathering, running all winter long, is comprised of anywhere from 10 to 17 musicians playing before a packed hall of about 100 people, who happily sing along to the music.

Musicians play a variety of instruments from guitars to pianos, to an accordion and harmonica, all based around 1950’s music that many in the crowd grew up loving. 

“I started it for the community back in 2013 and we’ve been going ever since,” said Gerry Shelswell, the organizer of the popular gathering.

“We had to stop for COVID, like everything else did, but this winter is our first winter back from stopping, and as you can see, it’s very popular and everyone who comes has a terrific time,” Shelswell added.

One of the performers who plays every event is former local CFOR morning show radio host, Rusty Draper. 

“It’s such a fun time. We all have fun doing what we do ... and love what we do,” Draper said.

As the night progresses, the crowd joins in singing the "good old-fashioned" songs, and for those who are new, the words to each song appear on a screen so everyone can join in. 

They even tell the odd joke throughout the night. 

Afterwards, there is a buffet of food for all to enjoy.

The unique part of this event is admission is free; organizers only ask you bring light food for the buffet afterwards. On a recent Saturday, some people brought sandwiches, some brought cookies, some brought drinks; you name it, it was there for the taking.

The event is unique and it's what makes it special, Shelswell explained.

“We’ve had people drive from all over Ontario just to attend these nights as there is nothing like this around, which goes to show that yes these events may die out over time, but the time is now to remember history and continue to do what we do here in Rugby,” said Shelswell. 

The music nights run until the end of April, with the plan to resume them next winter.

The event starts at 7 p.m., but of note, there is very limited seating for attendees. Remember to bring some light refreshments and then enjoy the night. The next one is March 25.