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Musicians will travel by boat and play 4 canal concerts

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 July 2015 at 12:00 am

Provided photo – Bill McDonald and his wife Kay are pictured playing at a festival as part of the band, the Old Hippies. McDonald and the band will play four canal concerts from Saturday through Monday, with stops in Middleport, Medina, Albion and Holley.

Bill McDonald has played in numerous venues in a 50-year musical career. As a member of the Ghost Riders and the Old Hippies, McDonald plays at many community concert series and events.

But he has never played from boat along the Erie Canal. That will change beginning Saturday when McDonald and members of the Old Hippies travel on a packet boat and play four canal concerts. They are calling their group, “The Traveling Towpath Troubadours.”

Middleport will host the first concert at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Then McDonald and the Hippies play 2 p.m. Sunday at Medina’s Canal Basin with a 6 p.m. concert to follow in Albion. On Monday, Holley will host a concert at 6 p.m. (Hickory Ridge Golf Course is also hosting the Hippies for a concert at 6 p.m. on July 17.)

McDonald will be joined by his wife Kay and other members of the Old Hippies band.
A different band or entertainer will join the Hippies at each performance along the historic waterway.

“We really want to highlight the canal,” said McDonald, a Batavia resident.

His son lives along the canal near Fancher. McDonald enjoys walking and riding his bike on the towpath and kayaking in the canal. He sees it as an underutilized resource.

“We want to encourage the historic assets, the scenery and the recreational values of the canal,” McDonald said.

Photo by Tom Rivers – To promote the upcoming concerts, Bill McDonald, his wife Kay and their band mates played in the Albion Strawberry Festival Parade last month.

A grant from the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council is covering most of the cost of the effort, including renting a packet boat for the trip. The concerts will be free to the public.

McDonald wants to perform from the boat, but the group may play at a gazebo from the canal locations depending on the weather.

The concert in Medina is timed with the arrival of about 600 cyclists who will be in town as part of the “Cycling the Erie Canal” event, which goes from Buffalo to Albany.

Other events in Medina that day include storyteller Teresa Wood at 3 p.m. in the canal basin, Wide Angle Art Studio displaying art work from local artists in the Canal Basin from 2 to 4 p.m., and the Blues Band playing at Medina Theater at 3:30.

McDonald looks forward to adding some pep to the canal towns.

“This is an old, fresh idea,” McDonald said about the boat concert tour. “I’ve always envisioned myself paddling down the water, Tom Sawyer like.”