Kevin Frank and Jeanette Kummerow on the harmonica, one of numerous 'old-time' instruments joining the fun of the annual Maclagan Squeeze Box Festival.
Kevin Frank and Jeanette Kummerow on the harmonica, one of numerous 'old-time' instruments joining the fun of the annual Maclagan Squeeze Box Festival. Joan Van Kuijck

Sing, dance, and recall love at 'Tinder of their time'

THEY come from miles around to do what they did as youngsters - get together, play the accordion, sing and dance.

And they welcome all-comers at the Maclagan Squeezebox Festival, with what was meant to be a one-off event readying for its 16th year on Saturday, October 13.

"Hall dances were like the Tinder of their time; that's where you found a partner," said Joan van Kuijck, a member of the Maclagan Hall Committee, whose book on the festival will be launched at this year's event by LNP leader Deb Frecklington - a repeat festival-goer.

The book, Keeping the Traditions Alive ... Maclagan Squeeze Box Festival, is a 212-page limited edition anthology of stories and pictures of "those who love and play accordion music".

Joan has tracked down 103 players from across Queensland, NSW, the ACT and South Australia, as well as writing a history of the accordion, and reprinting original photos and programs.

"I don't have a musical bone in my body," Joan admitted, but as one of just six volunteers on the hall committee and a town population of only about 50, she was quick to recognise the importance of the festival to the little town.

It all started as a single-event hall fundraiser following the demise of a similar occasion in Toowoomba, and was the brainchild of Les Weedon, to whom, along with wife Stella, Joan's book is dedicated.

These days the festival attracts up to 400 people, with many retirees choosing to make a weekend or a week of it, rekindling their love for old-time music like Goodnight Irene and Pack Up Your Troubles, and a good country get-together.

"There's a fantastic feeling of friendship, which is what country towns are famous for," Joan said.

She is hoping for more attendees than ever to celebrate the book launch.

While some will take to the stage and join the morning's "walk up and play" from 9am, others just sit back, tapping their toes, clapping or singing along, often with their eyes closed and a smile on their faces, Joan said, possibly remembering times past.

"The highlight of the day is just before lunch when everyone who has played hops back on stage, led by Les, and plays three or four songs together - it brings goosebumps," Joan said.

And while some familiar faces may be disappearing, Joan said, there was also renewed interest from the younger generation, with a number to be found sitting outside with "the old hands" learning their skills.

The main concert is at 1pm, with the dinner and dance at which the suits are pressed and the gowns flow, from 6pm till late, with music by Mystique.

So grab your accordion, harmonica, lagerphone, washboard, fiddle, spoons, or your glad rags and go to maclagansqueezeboxfestival.org for details of how you can be part of the fun.

Phone (07)46921335 or (07)46921265. Tickets are $10 for the day activities and $12 for the dance.


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