Bands and fans pack the house for seventh annual Eddie Festival

Vinny Michaels Band plays at the seventh annual Eddie Memorial Music Festival on Saturday in the pavilion at the Concordia Club in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

GLOVERSVILLE — With 14 bands playing 40-minute stints, participants in the seventh annual Eddie Memorial Music Festival on Saturday could hear a lot of their favorites.

People crowded in front of the two stages at the Concordia Club, some dancing and some just listening, while others enjoyed the music on picnic tables at a distance.

“The music is great,” said Michele Quist of Amsterdam. “Everybody needs music in their life.”

“We meet friends we haven’t seen in years and made new friends,” said Judith Chupka of Gloversville.

The festival honors the memory of Ed Lakata, a Johnstown musician who died in a bicycling accident in 2013. Lakata seemed to make a larger-than-life impression on people, a guy who mentored and aided young musicians to get a start in the music world.

Tina Austin, left, and Anna Bowers, both of Oppenheim, horse around on a toy motorcycle at the seventh annual Eddie Memorial Music Festival on Saturday in the pavilion at the Concordia Club in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Jim Beach who was playing with the band No Limit, said, “It’s an honor to play for him [Lakata]. I never had the honor to meet him.”

The festival started in Pine Lake and ran for four years there but moved to a more spacious venue at Concordia for the past three years. Ralph Stewart, a past president of the Concordia Club, said the Lakatas “approached us looking for a new venue.” He said the club with its buildings, pavilion and grounds allows it “to put on a really nice party.”

The festival “started out at Pine Lake because my husband used to play there for teen dances every Tuesday” in the 1970s when they were adolescents themselves, said Cindy Lakata. They started dating when they were seniors at Johnstown High School in 1976, she said.

Ed had a band called Spectrum but played with other bands. “He always insisted on including a young startup band to give them some exposure,” Cindy said.

Eighty percent of the people who came to this weekend’s festival knew Ed or had seen him play, Cindy said.

Stephanie Bartik of Rotterdam photographs Angela Duross of Johnstown through a Eddie festival frame as Kaeleigh Lozier of Johnstown watches at the seventh annual Eddie Memorial Music Festival on Saturday in the pavilion at the Concordia Club in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

Lakata “was a great guy,” said Anna Bowers of Oppenheim. “He loved children, and they loved him. He played his heart out.”

Tom Hart grew up with Lakata and other young musicians in Johnstown and remembered him as “very innovative, very intelligent.”

“He knew how to draw people. Eddie was never a snob.”

Lakata bought a fiddle for $15 on the way to a gig in Rutland, Vt. “He learned to play the fiddle in two days,” including “The Devil Came Down to Georgia,” Hart said.

He also made innovations to the keyboard and sound equipment that became staples later, he said.

People eat and listen to nearby bands at the seventh annual Eddie Memorial Music Festival on Saturday in the pavilion at the Concordia Club in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

The festival is a fundraiser for the Edward Lakata Memorial Scholarship Fund that annually awards $1,000 to two graduating JHS seniors who are pursing careers in math, science or the performing arts.

Volunteers Linda Kollar of Johnstown, in dark blue, and Dawn Hennessey of Gloversville sell raffle tickets at the seventh annual Eddie Memorial Music Festival on Saturday in the pavilion at the Concordia Club in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

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