1976: When Rush Was In The Mood To Play Welland Rose Festival

By Sarah Ferguson, Fort Erie Times, December 13, 2012


When Ivy Riddell listened to Rush perform at Welland Arena in 1976 as part of the Welland Rose Festival celebrations, she knew it would one day be an important moment in rock 'n' roll history.

Fast forward 36 years later, and the Canadian rock band is to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland during an induction ceremony at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on April 18.

Riddell describes lead singer Geddy Lee, bassist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart as king gentlemen who spent hours practising leading up to their Welland performance.

Knowing that the Canadian rockers will honoured by the hall of fame is exciting, Riddell said, because of the band's ties to the area - Peart grew up in Port Dalhousie.

"We're proud that we've had them play here."

Riddell, who was chair of the Rose Festival in 1976, said the person in charge of the festival's entertainment - John McLaughlin - insisted that Rush perform in Welland.

"John was eager to have them and they were on their way up. Once Rush was on top, it would be impossible to have them here in Welland."

With the festival committee supporting him, McLaughlin secured a performance from the band. It was an experience that everyone who was involved with the festival committee that year will never forget.

"I've never seen so much audio equipment," Riddell said about the preparation for the band's performance.

Riddell recalled the festival committee having to borrow a van to drive to Toronto to bring back two large, round lights which were used for the show.

Although she can't recall the exact number of tickets sold to the show, Riddell said at least 500 were purchased and fans began lining up hours prior to the concert just to catch a glimpse of the band.

As soon as the band struck its first note, the crowd was ecstatic, Riddell said.

"I remember going out onto the walkway at the arena and thinking the music was so loud, but the young people loved them."

Riddell remembers that no matter where anyone went in Welland that day, they could hear the band's performance.

"My husband couldn't stand (being) inside the arena because the music was so loud for him. He went all the way to Burgar St., and he could still hear them playing at the arena."


What a Rush


• Canadian rock trio Rush-Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart - will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 18.

• The band formed in Toronto in 1968, and released their first album in 1974.

• Rush performed at the Welland Rose Festival in 1976.

• They were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1994.