The ‘kitchen party’ is a Newfoundland folk tradition that first evolved as a shared pastime among family, friends, and neighbours in rural outports and remote fishing villages and which has played an integral role in shaping the social fabric and cultural identity of Newfoundland life.
From these social gatherings emerged a repertoire of performance, stories, and songs to help pass long and uneventful evenings. Drinkers and carousers would crowd around their wood stoves or step dance across the floor.
The principal melody instruments at the kitchen party was the accordion and fiddle. In their absence came the ‘ugly stick‘, a traditional Newfoundland musical instrument fashioned out of household and tool shed items, typically a mop handle with bottle caps, tin cans, small bells, and other noise makers.
This tradition of household entertainment continues to thrive and remains an indelible part of Newfoundland’s cultural heritage. On any given Saturday night across the island, makeshift jam sessions unfold in kitchens, living rooms, and basements.
Interestingly, in 2013, CBC Radio One’s Weekend AM hosted a transatlantic kitchen party, building on the historical connections between Bristol, England and Newfoundland. Click here for the experience.
While today’s kitchen party has taken on a life of its own, moving out of the kitchen and into larger venues, there is still no better way in Newfoundland to get to know a crowd of strangers than a good ole fashion kitchen party.
Below are four notable ones.
Woody Island Resort
This ole fashion kitchen party comes with the Woody Island stay package, and involves live entertainment with a guitar, an accordion, and even an ‘ugly stick’ or two thrown into the mix. Guests are also encouraged to bring their own musical instruments and play along.
The audience here is energetic with lots of dancing and singing and nothing gets people moving like a great Newfoundland Irish tune. Some of the more popular songs at the Woody Island kitchen party include Mussels in the Corner, I’se the By’s, and Salt Water Joys.
Quidi Vidi Brewery
Quidi Vidi Brewery, Newfoundland’s largest craft brewery, hosts a kitchen party Friday evenings beginning at 5:30. This boisterous event, featuring live music by the Brew Crew band, is a foot stomping performance that will have you up and on the floor in no time.
Eight brands of Quidi Vidi Brewery’s award winning beers are also on tap for you to sample. A guided tour of their brewing facility is also recommended.
A visit to the area is well worth the trip alone, Quidi Vidi is essentially a rural fishing outport in St. John’s. Now, how many major Canadian cities can boast such a thing?
Ocean View Hotel & Anchor Pub
Ocean View Hotel, located in the heart of spectacular Gros Morne National Park, recently won the H. Clayton Sparkes Accommodator of the Year Award in NL, and for good reason. At their kitchen parties (held Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights), you join local recording artist Dave Shears and get ‘screeched in’ (become a certified honorary Newfoundlander). Come sing/play along with the band using some of their homemade, traditional party instruments.
Be sure you also check out the Anchor Pub, which features live traditional entertainment seven nights a week from June through September. All summer long, the Anchors Aweigh band leads a host of talented entertainers here, creating one of the region’s signature entertainment experiences.
Aunt Edna’s Boarding House B&B
The picturesque community of Little Bay Islands (population 80) is tucked away in Notre Dame Bay on the northern coast of Newfoundland. Here, authentic rural outport kitchen parties are held at Aunt Edna’s parlor, where, every Saturday night, people just drop by and have a great night of music, songs, and stories.
Musicians come from all over for these parties, a wonderful experience that showcases local songwriters and artists. Be sure to ask Sharlene, the owner, to break out her bohran, the Irish drum, with the impromptu band.