35th annual folk fest a success
For three days last week, the Town of Canmore was transformed into a hub of artistic creativity.
Musicians performed numbers ranging in styles from old Hawaiian cowboy songs to modern folk and blues. Vendors sold handcrafted merchandise and spread awareness about volunteering in impoverished countries. Food trucks supplied a wide variety of taste for any palette from Greek to Mexican, and thousands of people enjoyed every minute of it.
The 35th annual Canmore Folk Festival officially ended Monday evening (Aug. 6) at Centennial Park, but it wasn’t before both residents and visitors soaked up the perfect amount of sunshine, folk tunes and organic bug spray in what can only be described as another successful year for the festival.
“There’s just been a great vibe,” said festival artistic director Sue Panning. “We’ve done our best to make sure that we have the hospitality and the meals and everything. The musicians seem really happy with the pairings in the sessions. The weather is great and the audience is terrific.”
From well-known Canadian artists like Bruce Cockburn and Ian Tyson to American three-piece band Red Molly to Australians Kim Churchill and the Rosie Burgess Trio, the festival demonstrated its ability to incorporate different music while remaining true to its integrity.
“I thought a lot about how to put it together and make the evenings work,” the director added regarding the lineup for each of the three concerts at night as well as the workshops during the day. “I haven’t heard anything but rave reviews. I’m so thrilled.”
Kicking off Friday evening with a street party, the folk festival featured a children’s concert the following afternoon before offering workshops both at Centennial Park and the Canmore Miners’ Union Hall. For some musicians, getting to play these types of festivals is a treat.
“I’ve played a number of festivals in Canada and they all seem to have their own flavour,” said Suzie Vinnick, a folk/blues musician who performed alongside Rick Fines. “There seems to be a nice mix of genres represented here. They’ve made us feel very welcome and the audience is great too.”
“It’s one of our favourite things to do; to go to a different town and play a festival,” added Abbie Gardner, one third of Red Molly. “The nice thing about the festivals is that we get to see other people’s shows.
“This festival is great,” she continued. “It’s all surrounded by these beautiful mountains so you can’t go wrong.”
Although some musicians featured at the festival have been around the block a few times, other newer artists and bands were able to showcase their music and turned a few heads doing it, such as local band The Eerie Green.
“It’s an amazing weekend. It’s changed over the years and definitely grown,” said the band’s drummer, Eli Panning-Osendarp. “They (organizers) have been expanding.”
Having just finished recording a new, as-yet-untitled album, in Vancouver that’s set to be released next spring, The Eerie Green is just one example of how people from the community are involved in contributing to the festival musically and through the various vendors present.
Cathy Sturgeon is on the board of directors for The Hearts in Hands Foundation – a not-for-profit charity that helps improve health and education in Guatemala by encouraging people to volunteer – and was one of the many organizations present at the festival.
“We thought it was a good opportunity to launch our new website (www.heartshands.ca) and really promote and bring some exposure about the program,” Sturgeon said. “There are so many people here, so it’s a good way to promote it. It’s been great to partner with the folk fest and hopefully it turns out quite well so we can come back next year.”
Aside from other charities like Love in Action, which provides sponsorship and promotes building homes and schools in Uganda, other vendors at the festival were there to offer their latest creations for sale.
“Most of the things at the Canmore Folk Festival, the vendors themselves hand make or have some input into the making of,” said Colleen Garland, owner of Henna Artistry. “I think that’s why people here as vendors take pride in what they do, because they’re hands on.
“We’re very much into recycling, reusing and refurbishing anything,” she continued. “You can see that in the fabric people are using, in the jewelry that people are selling. Canmore promotes that.”
Besides having different vendors each year, one of the new initiatives delivered at this year’s festival was the implementation of a dance area at the front of the stage during the last act of every evening.
Panning said organizers received good feedback from last year and set about spreading the word regarding the changes for the final performers. “We knew we had to do something because we didn’t want people getting stepped on,” she added. “When it came time for people to get up, they all folded up their tarps.”
Much of the success of the festival over the years has been attributed to the countless volunteers who offer up their time and energy to ensuring the event grows each year.
Pennie Casey, the festival’s volunteer coordinator, has only missed one of the last 35 folk festivals and said that despite holding the position she has now for the past 10 years, there’s always something new to learn.
“It’s a really positive vibration,” Casey said. “People love the music. I think this is the first year we’ve had an excess of volunteers. It’s a very sociable thing.
“We call it the folk festival family and that’s what it is,” she continued. “You’re seeing people you only see maybe once a year. It absolutely could not even begin to happen without volunteers. Our minimum requirement is nine hours when you’re a regular volunteer and we have people who do 99 hours. They are tireless.”
The coming together of volunteers, musicians, vendors and the public has developed into an event the artistic director believes the town can be proud of and look forward to every year.
“I really feel the Canmore festival is like a community coming together for a shared loved of music, but also a shared love of being here in the mountains,” Panning said.
“It’s a much more intimate feeling here with the great food vendors and the artisan booths. It’s all sort of small and contained. I think it’s a really special thing we have here.”
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