Bashaw Festival of Stars set for long weekend

Having become a popular May long weekend musical event, the 10th annual Bashaw Festival of Stars runs May 17-19

GIFTED - Susanna Heystek is one of several performers set to take the stage at this year’s Bashaw Festival of Stars

GIFTED - Susanna Heystek is one of several performers set to take the stage at this year’s Bashaw Festival of Stars

Having become a popular May long weekend musical event, the 10th annual Bashaw Festival of Stars runs May 17-19 on the Bashaw Agricultural grounds.

Audiences will enjoy everything from bluegrass to country classics to gospel-oriented styles. Things kick off Friday at 1 p.m.

Hours for Saturday and Sunday entertainment are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Folks are encouraged to bring along their lawn chairs and camping is available.

From its inception, the Bashaw Festival of Stars has had no problem attracting reams of performers excited to take part, said manager Ron Shantz.

“We have performers from all over Alberta,” he said, adding that although there are some repeat performers from year to year, the emphasis is on shining the spotlight on a new batch of artists each year.

Performers set to hit the stage at the event include Don Cassidy, The Jeskes, the Keister Family, Mountain Spirit Bluegrass, Susanna Heystek, Cabin Fever Bluegrass, Randy Smith, among others.

Rocky Mountain House resident Susanna Heystek, 14, plays a wide variety of music, from Vivaldi and hymns with famous organist, Andre Knevel, to traditional Irish tunes. She plays at Cowboy Church and participates in the Red Deer Kiwanis Festival where she received the String Solo Award in 2011 at the Performers’ Showcase.

She’s been playing the violin since she was five.

Music is something of a family thing as well. “My grandmother, who lives in South Africa, is very musical. She plays the piano when I go there. My mom is fairly musical, too, and my dad has a really good ear.”

Susanna’s family immigrated to Canada a few years before she was born.

With that rich musical heritage in tow, hitting the stage was quite a natural transition. “When I started violin lessons my teacher would have all the students perform in front of each other each week, and that really got me used to playing in front of people,” she explains. “I started performing quite a bit when I was about nine.”

She also credits Dutch composer/conductor/violinist Andrew Rieu with being a key inspiration to pursue music. His theatrical, colourful performances struck a chord with her when she was just five, and she was inspired by his ability to not just conduct but to truly entertain audiences.

“He’s not just a musician – he’s a fantastic performer. He was my inspiration and probably the reason I play the violin. Some people are great musicians and you just want to listen to them. Andre Rieu is one you want to watch.”

Over the years, her passion for music has seen her broaden her abilities – she also plays guitar, mandolin, clarinet and piano.

Meanwhile, she is excited about again performing at the Bashaw Festival of Stars.

She loves how the event features both very experienced artists as well as emerging ones. “They give a chance for a lot of young, upcoming musicians. I’ve made quite a few friends there, too.”

In 2011 and 2012 she was invited to the Festival of Stars as well. She is also a regular member of Westlake Echos. She received the Rising Star Award at the Alberta Men & Women of Country Music event in 2012.

Music, in general, continues to keep her fascinated. “Music just moves something in me. God knew what he was doing when he made music.”

Susanna takes the stage at the Bashaw Festival of Stars on the Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. Admission to the Bashaw Festival of Stars is as follows – Friday ($20 for the afternoon and $15 for the evening), Saturday and Sunday ($30). The weekend special price is $60.

For more information, call coordinator Ron Shantz at 780-372-3087.

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