A weekend of Ragtime & Rails rolls into Central PA this September

Bryan Wright Joey Antico Central PA Ragtime Fest 2021-09-25
Bryan Wright, piano, and Joey Antico, drums, perform on the East Broad Top platform for the 2021 Central PA Ragtime Fest. (courtesy rockhillragtime.com)

Imagine sitting on the platform of your towns’ railroad station, whistles blowing as the old-time train rolls to the platform, and live jazz music is being played in the background. Sounds like something you’d only be able to experience in a Hollywood film, right? WRONG! It can be something you can enjoy, alongside many other events September 22nd thru 25th at the Central Pennsylvania Ragtime & American Music Festival in Rockhill Furnace, Pennsylvania!

The Festival, launched in 2009, is one of America’s most intimate music gatherings, bringing Grammy nominated musicians to central PA, performing Ragtime, Jazz, Boogie-Woogie, Stride, Blues, and hits from the Great American Songbook. This year, the festival brings back favorite performers Adam Swanson, Frederick Hodges, and Brian Holland, and welcomes back past performers Martin Spitznagel, Danny Coots, and Andrew Greene’s Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra.

Tickets for the Central Pennsylvania Ragtime & American Music Festival are on sale now at www.rockhillragtime.com or by reaching out to the festival at [email protected] or (443) 694-4116. An All Access Pass costs $250, with individual events ranging from $20-$80 each.

Many music festivals in the Ragtime & Jazz world talk about transporting you back in time, and the Central Pennsylvania Ragtime & American Music Festival does just that – both literally and figuratively! Based in the historic communities of Orbisonia and Rockhill Furnace, the twin boroughs hold a unique charm, with most buildings dating back to the turn-of-the-last century, with the area’s signature attraction, the East Broad Top Railroad, nestled between the two. Festival attendees can hop aboard the antique trains of the EBT, ride on a historic trolley at the Rockhill Trolley Museum, and, of course, hear live music being played on the platform of the railroad station! Concerts take place at the historic Orbisonia Presbyterian Church, on the train platform, in the festival tent located in the heart of the East Broad Top & Rockhill Trolley Museum’s Rail Yard, and – new this year – in the county seat, Huntingdon, at the Huntingdon County Arts Council’s recently restored 12th Street Church, which doubles as a performing arts center.A weekend of Ragtime & Rails rolls into Central PA this September

“The Central PA Ragtime Festival is unlike any other music event in the United States,” said Andrew Greene, who also serves as Festival Director. “Where else can you hear America’s first popular music forms in a town whose history ties perfectly with genre? And this year, we’re so excited to partner with the Huntingdon County Arts Council, The East Broad Top Railroad, The Rockhill Trolley Museum, and other partners to expand our festival and offer new experiences to our patrons.”

2022’s festival begins on Thursday, September 22nd, with a kickoff concert at 7:00 PM at the Historic 12th Street Church, 313 12th Street, Huntingdon, PA, presented in partnership with the Huntingdon County Arts Council. An after-hours reception is being planned. This new event seeks to bring attention to the festival and allow residents in the northern end of Huntingdon County to experience the festival artists in a new location.

Central PA Ragtime Fest
Fun at the Rockhill Trolley Museum during a past festival.

Friday September 23rd brings back a festival favorite – Piano on the Platform at the East Broad Top Railroad’s Orbisonia Station, 421 Meadow Street, Rockhill PA. Festival artists will perform free concerts in 30-minute sets, with an open piano slot for attendees to show off their piano skills. Attendees are encouraged to bring a portable chair to enjoy this experience. The East Broad Top Railroad will be running excursion trains at 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, and 3:00 PM, and the neighboring Rockhill Trolley Museum will be offering trolley rides throughout the day. An afternoon concert begins at 2:00 PM at the Orbisonia Presbyterian Church on US-522 in Orbisonia. At 5:00 PM, festival goers will head over to the Rockhill Trolley Museum, 430 Meadow Street, Rockhill PA for the Jazz Age Social. Attendees are encouraged to dress in 1920s attire, strut their stuff on the dance floor as the performers play live, take a ride on a vintage trolley, and eat American & European-inspired cuisine, provided by Rebelz Mobile Cuisine, a local food truck. That evening at 7:30 PM at the East Broad Top Railroad’s train station, is the popular “Silent Movies At The Station”, where several silent comedy shorts will be shown under the stars with live musical accompaniment by Frederick Hodges. Festival attendees are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets for this outdoor film presentation, with a rain location of Orbisonia’s Presbyterian Church on Ridgely Street.

Saturday September 25th kicks off with a lecture entitled “The Golden Reunion in Ragtime,” presented by Adam Swanson at the Orbisonia Presbyterian Church on Ridgely Street. Beginning at 10:00 AM, ragtime piano will again be featured in free performances at the East Broad Top Railroad’s Orbisonia Station. At 2:00 PM, the festival continues with an afternoon concert at the Orbisonia Presbyterian Church. At 5:00 PM, the EBT and festival jointly present The Broad Top Ball, the festival’s signature event. Guests will board the East Broad Top Railroad for a 1-hour round-trip excursion to Colgate Grove. Upon returning to Rockhill, guests will de-board and enjoy a catered dinner, dancing, and live music by festival artists. Attendees are again encouraged to dress in 1920s attire for this not-to-be-missed event.

Sunday September 25th resumes piano on the platform from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the East Broad Top Railroad’s station. The festival concludes with a 2:00 PM concert at the Orbisonia Presbyterian Church featuring Andrew Greene’s Peacherine Ragtime Society Orchestra in concert. Peacherine, hailed by The Washington Post as “the premier American ragtime ensemble”, returns to the festival for the first time since 2011, presenting their “Ragtime Masters” concert program. Festival pianists will perform alongside the orchestra for this festival spectacular.

A weekend of Ragtime & Rails rolls into Central PA this September
The Orbisonia Presbyterian Church during the 2021 festival.

Sounds like a great time, right? That’s what audiences have been saying for over a decade! Make your travel plans now, and be sure to bring your bowler hat, suspenders, and flapper outfits with you! Not able to make the festival? Consider making a tax-deductible donation through the Festival’s website. All donations go towards paying the musicians and help to grow this annual event year after year.

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