BORDEN, Canada – Thousands of travelers who love music enjoy the Sun-N-Shade Campground near the massive Confederation Bridge, which brings them to the tiny province of Prince Edward Island.
Operated by seasoned musicians Harold and Marnie Noye, the Sun-N-Shade serves as a haven for music enthusiasts in the country, bluegrass and gospel genres.
“We’ve traveled a lot ourselves and haven’t come across a similar campground,” said Marnie, who sings and plays standup bass. “On different occasions, people have commented that they enjoyed our music shows more than some they'd seen in Nashville.”
Inside the Sun-N-Shade’s 160-seat recreation hall, the Noyes and their guests, including many of the campers, perform lively shows six nights a week from spring until autumn. Tourists and Islanders alike come to listen.
“Many people who stay here are attracted by the music,” Marnie said. “Our location on the main highway and near the bridge brings people too. We’re centrally located. From here, visitors can do all their touring of PEI.”
Live music makes the campground “a lot of fun” for the guests and its management. “It certainly does,” said Marnie. “We work hard all day. But when we go to the hall, we’re very excited. It’s great therapy to end each day on a musical high.”
Many musicians dream of owning a stage on which to perform and to share musical pleasures. “It’s wonderful, something I never dreamed would happen in my lifetime,” said Marnie.
The shows are free, although spectators are encouraged to donate a few dollars to a selected charity, namely the Izaak Walton Killam Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“Harold and Marnie work hard to entertain us, all without charging admission,” said an audience member from Borden.
On a memorable night last month, international star George Hamilton IV performed at the Sun-N-Shade. “We met him in Florida last winter,” Marnie said. “He had a promoter contact us and ask if he could come here.”
Before leaving, Hamilton presented the Noyes with an autographed poster thanking them for “one of the best” musical nights of his life. That poster and items of music memorabilia celebrating Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams and others adorn the walls. A cowboy hat, boots and CD-displays rest on the stage.
“We had a few old instruments,” Marnie said. “Folks who camped here gave us a lot more memorabilia. They continue to donate things.”
Guitarist and fiddler Cecil McEachern, formerly of Don Messer and His Islanders, one of the most famous bands in Canadian history, also appeared at the Sun-N-Shade this year.
“I love playing here,” said Nathan Condon, another top-notch fiddler. “Harold and Marnie make it fantastic. They’re great people, and the crowds are great.”
For a change of pace, comedian George Cotton often performs. An open-mike policy even brings audience members onstage. “It’s always fun here,” said one tourist, moments before playing his accordian for the crowd.
Away from the campground, Harold and Marnie perform in Jericho Road, an award-winning gospel band. Harold sings and plays mandolin. He’s a former postal contract-worker and air-base heavy-equipment operator. Marnie’s an ex-teacher who started her career in a one-room, rural schoolhouse.
In 2002, the Noyes bought the Sun-N-Shade. “We built the hall almost right way,” Marnie said.
The Sun-N-Shade has other attractions too: 87 serviced RV sites, three cabins, nine tent-sites, paved streets, clean washrooms, laundry facilities, a small store, picnic tables and facilities for horseshoes, bocce ball, schuffleboard and even hillbilly golf.
The latter, “one of the fastest-growing campground games in North America”, requires tossing two golf balls so that a cord joining them circles a plastic frame.
The Sun-N-Shade welcomes pets too, although dogs should be leashed.
But the music always prevails – in the sun and the shade.
A poster signed by George
Hamilton IV hangs prominently.
Music memorabilia covers the walls.
Fiddler Nathan Condon hits stride.
Comedian George Cotton earns a laugh.