A talented family will be making its 10th Canfield Fair appearance.
By SEAN BARRON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CANFIELD -- When Mark Robinson comes to the Canfield Fair, he'll bring his instrument, voice and a story.
So will his mother, father and two sisters.
Family entertainment is a staple of any show the five Robinson Family Singers put together.
"We do some gospel, but ours is a 100-percent family show," said Mark Robinson, who plays the electric bass.
The Robinson family will be bringing its three buses, two tractor-trailers and music to this year's Canfield Fair, where the troupe will perform up to three shows each day. The Robinsons have been part of the fair's entertainment for 10 years.
This musical family has spent much of the last 24 years entertaining people in at least 40 states, as well as Canada, Mark Robinson added.
The five have shared their music and lives with audiences from California to Florida, he said.
Their wide-ranging repertoire also includes country, bluegrass and music from as far back as the 1920s. An Andrew Sisters, Glenn Miller or Beach Boys tune may find its way into a performance as well, along with original music.
The Owenton, Ky.-based family is made up of Jackie Robinson, who acts as emcee; Mary Ruth Robinson, banjo and keyboards; Rebekah Cluxton on the saxophone, guitar and mandolin; and Susannah Holder on drums.
More than music: During a typical show, family members share poignant moments, personal stories, anecdotes and struggles; they often choose a country-western song that fits a particular theme, Holder said.
"We share that families and relationships can make it," she said. "People are hungry for answers."
Holder also said she has made friends with many people she's met at the Canfield Fair. Robinson family members are often invited to stay at other people's homes, she added.
The family has spent much of the last 12 years playing at various festivals, rodeos and military bases, Mark Robinson said.
He added that the Robinsons enjoy performing within the fair circuit because of the family and country atmosphere.
Mark Robinson said he remembers the same type of atmosphere at the Superdome in New Orleans, where the Robinsons performed for 15,000 fans. Bob Hope was also on the bill, he said.
Mark Robinson said he and his family are on the road eight months each year.
They spend the winter preparing their itinerary for the following season and take one month off. The family does its own bookings, he added.
Holder said that when she was a child, her father did odd jobs to support the family after losing his 7-year position at Syracuse University. When the family moved close to Utica, N.Y., several of his students followed, playing music at the house, she recalled.
Opportunity to work: Holder also said when she was 8, a family friend told her dad he could make $100 each weekend playing at the Petticoat Junction, a former Utica railroad depot. For six months, the Robinsons and their children sang and sold strawberries for extra income.
In 1978, the Robinsons went on their first road trip, Holder said.
Holder said her father "is a big believer in family reunions" and that the Robinsons are making their 240-acre farm accessible for such events.
The Robinson farm has a retreat center for bringing families together, Holder mentioned.
One of its goals is to present several low-cost reunions each year, she said.
The property also contains a 5,000-seat amphitheater and stage built into a hill that the family uses the weekend after Father's Day. The Robinsons bring in local entertainment as part of their annual festival, he added.