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Giving Back: Garyville’s history shared through music

GARYVILLE — When Garyville’s Peyton Falgoust was just 12, he attended a festival in Madisonville where musicians brought their instruments and freely walked around to play, unplugged, with one another.

Peyton Falgoust, left, strums his guitar while his grandmother, Francesca Falgoust, plays the harmonica. Mary Falgoust is standing behind Francesca at 2014’s inaugural Sings and Strings Festival. (Photo submitted)

Peyton Falgoust, left, strums his guitar while his grandmother, Francesca Falgoust, plays the harmonica. Mary Falgoust is standing behind Francesca at 2014’s inaugural Sings and Strings Festival. (Photo submitted)

“You’d just walk up to a group of people and start jamming,” Falgoust said. “I just thought, man, this is awesome. We need to do something like this in Garyville.”

When Falgoust turned 18 last year, he decided the wait had been long enough; it was time to pull the trigger. With the help of family, friends and others in the community, the Sings and Strings Festival was established.

This Sunday, the second annual Sings and Strings Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Garyville Historic District, where musicians, chefs and crafters will convene to enjoy each other’s work and company.

Proceeds from the event go toward the restoration of the Garyville Timbermill Museum, which has been closed for the past 13 years. The ultimate goal is to reopen the museum for tours and educational exhibits.

Last year, Sings and Strings saw over a combined 1,000 musicians and visitors in attendance. This year, 85 musicians and vocalists have been confirmed; they will serenade the festival community with live music, while chefs participate in multiple cook-off competitions and crafters show off their work.

Falgoust, a Riverside Academy alumnus, said his uncle, Carl Monica, was instrumental in getting the ball rolling.

“He agreed that we needed to do this, and we wanted it to be for a reason,” Falgoust said. “It can’t be for money. We can do something beneficial.”

Those conversations inspired the idea to restore the Timbermill Museum, which was dedicated to preserving the history and culture of Garyville. Falgoust, a history buff in addition to his musical interests, said it was a cause that spoke loudly to him.

“The old lumber mill was a huge business,” Falgoust said. “If not for that, I wouldn’t have been born. It brought my great grandfather here from Italy. It brought my grandmother. They came to Garyville, because that was the draw. It’s kind of my history.”

Last year’s event raised $11,000, which was primarily used to replace the museum’s roof and restore the heating and air conditioning in the Annex building.

MUSIC

Falgoust mainly plays the guitar, and also plays the banjo, mandolin and harmonica. The latter is something he enjoys playing with his grandmother, Francesca Falgoust, who has become a huge fan of Sings and Strings.

“She’s very special,” Falgoust said. “She’s always told me, ‘God gave you a gift, so you’ve got to keep doing it.’ She’s been one of the biggest influences on my music and someone behind me pursuing my passions.

“Music is my favorite thing. I like to listen to it, and most of all, I like to play it. The thing I love about the festival is you can walk up to a group, you don’t know each other, but you don’t even have to. You just start playing. You have a conversation with your instruments.”

Donna Falgoust, Peyton’s mother, said she sees the joy when her son and his grandmother spend time together at the festival.

“His whole heart is into it, and I think a lot of that comes from how happy it makes his grandmother,” she said.

It also makes his mother happy.

“You know, I always say Peyton’s a young man but an old soul,” she said. “He’s just a very giving person and he thinks beyond his years. I’m so proud of who he is. This festival is his baby.”

While establishing the festival was his dream, Falgoust said the credit extends to many.

“What I’m most proud of is how many people worked together to make this happen,” he said. “No bickering or arguing, ever, just people that, when I pitched the idea, did everything they could to make it happen. I’m proud of how we all worked together.”

Entry fee is $5 for adults and children 12 and under are free if accompanied by an adult. While the festival has accepted preregistration, those who’d like to play that have not signed up are still invited to bring their instruments and check in at the hospitality suite.