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Dancers get to Toss the Possum at Martha Hope Cabin
Band entertains, jams with visitors at contra dance
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Deanna Palumbo and Carol Kraus listen as music fills the room at a Contra dance held Saturday at the Martha Hope Cabin on Prior Street in Gainesville. Attendees listened and danced along with music played by the band Toss the Possum. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Folks stopped by the Martha Hope Cabin on Prior Street in Gainesville Saturday to listen, dance and watch 23-year-old fiddling virtuoso Rob Zisette excitedly wield the instrument.

The event offered visitors the chance to Contra dance — similar to square dancing, except instead of forming a square, couples dance in lines.

Traveling family band Toss the Possum, of which Zisette is a member, provided the background music.

Playing fiddle has never been a choice, said Zisette, who won his first fiddling contest at age 8.

“I was born with music in me,” he said. “It’s ingrained.”

Charlie Zisette is the band manager and father to Rob. He said playing in Gainesville Saturday was “just great.”

“We’ve enjoyed it here so far,” Charlie Zisette said.

He said being a traveling family band has been a great experience.

“We’re raising money for Rob’s college tuition,” Charlie said. “And, playing all of these places around the Southeast is part of that effort.”

Event organizer Heitzso said the band members of Toss the Possum — which includes Rob’s mom, Laura, a classically-trained pianist — is “one of the nicest families I’ve ever met.”

The entertainment started at noon Saturday and continued throughout the day with waltzing, open jam sessions and dancing workshops. Later in the evening, festivities continued nearby at the First Baptist Church.

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