He racked up the miles and spent very few weekends at home, but Jason Lepine wouldn't have wanted this summer to go any other way.
The local musician is doing his part to keep the art of fiddling alive in Manitoba and has performed at a plethora of different events across the province over the last few months.
"It's been an honour to be invited to play at all these different functions. I just started (touring) in June, and everything has been really, really busy. I've been to Moosomin, Saskatchewan to play at their Indigenous Days, I've gone to Winkler for Canada Day, I've been to Morden," Lepine continues. "I went to Batoche, Saskatchewan for their great big Back to Batoche Days, which broke a record having 41,000 people out on the Saturday. That was one of the biggest ones. Dryden and Kenora, I went there. I've been up to Norway House for their major square dancing competition. In Winnipeg, I was at so many various events."
Lepine loves sharing his passion for the fiddle with as many people as possible. That hasn't gone unnoticed, as Lepine can now see his face on the most prestigious wall for Manitoban fiddlers.
"It's a great honour to be in the Manitoba Fiddle Association's Wall of Fame with all of my fiddle friends and all of the legends. My dad is in there. Patti Kusturok, the late Clint Dutiaume, and the list goes on. It is quite the honour."
While a fiddling tune might not be the first thing you hear when you turn on the radio most days, Lepine believes the instrument is only growing in popularity.
"I think fiddling has shot up from where it was when I was younger. There are so many fiddle players that are teaching now to keep the tradition alive. The grassroots, that's where it starts. The kids really seem to enjoy the music, and that's great to see."
Lepine was invited to a national competition this summer, however, he stresses that his competing days are behind him.
"I received some good news a few months ago. I was invited to the Canadian Grand Masters, the national fiddle contest. Unfortunately, my competing days are over. As I get older, my nerves just can't take it," Lepine explains. "What I did is I let my spot go to a younger fiddle player, so they would be able to experience what that was like. I was there in 1996 and '97. It's an invite-only contest where they take the top five from each province to compete for the national title."
One place where Lepine will be able to put his nerves to the side and just enjoy playing his music, the Asham Stomperfest, which he has never missed.
"It was just a smaller festival to start out with, but it just grew and grew and grew every year. Arnold Asham has done a very good job with the festival. I was there for a good ten years straight, and then the festival went on a bit of a break. Of course, the pandemic didn't help that either. I don't know what the future holds for the festival, but it'd be great if they continue it every year."
You can catch Lepine performing at Stomperfest tonight at 6:30.
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