Folk festivals



Folk festivals

Early Festivals

The first festivals devoted to folk music in Canada were likely among the 17 events sponsored 1927-31 by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), including the Canadian Folk Song and Handicraft Festivals in Quebec City in 1927, 1928, and 1930; the New Canadian Folk Song and Handicraft Festival in Winnipeg in 1928; and the Great West Canadian Folksong-Folkdance and Handicraft Festivals in Regina in 1929 and in Calgary in 1930. These festivals showcased Canadian compositions and performers, and the cultural traditions of the country's various ethnic groups, and played a major role in the development of music in Canada (see CPR Festivals).

Contemporary Festivals

The "modern" North American folk festival emerged in response to the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s. The earliest of these festivals, the Newport Folk Festival on Rhode Island, was founded in 1959 and gained popularity during the folk boom of the 1960s. Its Canadian counterpart, the Mariposa Folk Festival, followed in 1961 (although the first and longest surviving Canadian folk festival, the Miramichi Folksong Festival, predates Newport by a year). By 1968 Mariposa was the largest folk festival in North America, and had featured internationally acclaimed artists such as Joni Mitchell, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Pete Seeger, and Gordon Lightfoot. While both Newport and Mariposa reflected the so-called "urban folk revival" in their programming, Miramichi was devoted until the late 1980s to showcasing the traditional folk music of local performers.

Although the Regina Folk Festival began in 1969, most of the major Canadian festivals had a later genesis, including the three that would rival (and in some ways surpass) Mariposa during the 1980s: the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1974, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival in 1978, and the Edmonton Folk Music Festival in 1980. Each brought an increasingly progressive definition of folk music to its programming. By the late 1980s many Canadian festivals had become more eclectic, featuring traditional and contemporary folk music, as well as pop, blues, Aboriginal, and world music.

Several smaller festivals have focused on particular sub-genres, instruments, or cultural groups, including the Chilliwack Bluegrass Festival in Chilliwack, BC; the Beaches Accordion Festival in Eastport, NL; and the Aboriginal Music Festival in Saskatoon, Sask.

Festival Formats

Like Mariposa (and Newport) and unlike Miramichi, the majority of Canadian folk festivals are held outside, often in parks, and over long weekends in the summer months. Festivals are usually organized on a non-profit basis by local folk music societies - eg, the Georgian Bay Folk Society, which operates Summerfolk, in Owen Sound, Ont. Much of the organization is undertaken by volunteers, who number in the hundreds at the larger festivals. Many societies also organize concerts and other folk music events throughout the year. Mariposa's multi-stage, workshop/concert format, which evolved under the artistic direction of Estelle Klein, has proven an influential programming model for other festivals.

Dissemination and Audience Outreach

Beginning in the 1980s CBC radio began to broadcast portions of the Edmonton, Vancouver, and Winnipeg festivals live to a national audience. It also recorded many concerts there and elsewhere for later use on such variety series as "Simply Folk" and "The Entertainers." In co-operation with "Simply Folk," the Canadian Folk Music Bulletin began in 1984 to publish in its summer issue an annual directory of festivals. The journal listed some 130 events in its first year, and nearly 200 in its second, applying a broad definition that accommodated Acadian, Scottish, and bluegrass festivals, fiddling contests, powwows, and ethnic events. Subsequent lists were drawn according to a more restrictive definition, and included events of one or more days' duration.

A similar definition - festivals of two or more days' duration after the Newport/Mariposa model - has been used to formulate the selective list that follows here (with the year of the first festival and site and/or city as of 2010, or of the festival's final year).

See also Bluegrass, Country music, Feminist music, Festivals, Folk music revival, Powwow singers

Folk Festivals A-L

All Folks Festival. 1990. Kingston, Ont

Atlantic Folk Festival. 1975-81. Moxam's Farm, Hardwoodlands County, NS

Bayfest (formerly Festival by the Bay). 1990. Sarnia, Ont

Blue Skies Music Festival. 1973. Clarendon, Ont

Brandon Folk, Music & Art Festival. 1985. Brandon, Man

Brimstone Head Folk Festival. 1985. Fogo Island, NL

Burin Peninsula Festival of Folk Song and Dance. 1984. Burin, NL

Calgary Folk Music Festival. 1980. Prince's Island Park, Calgary

Canadian Deep Roots Music Festival. 2004. Wolfville, NS

Canmore Folk Festival. 1978. Centennial Park, Canmore, Alta

Canterbury Folk Festival. 2000. Ingersoll, Ont

Codroy Valley Folk Festival. 1983. Upper Ferry, Codroy Valley, NL

Conception Bay Folk Festival. 1979. Carbonear, NL

Dawson City Music Festival. 1979. Minto Park, Dawson City, Yukon

Eaglewood Folk Festival. 1989. Pefferlaw, Ont

Edmonton Folk Music Festival. 1980. Gallagher Park, Edmonton

Festival by the Sea/Festival sur mer. 1985-2004. Saint John, NB

Festival mondial de folklore de Drummondville. 1983. Drummondville, Que

Festival of Friends. 1976. Gage Park, Hamilton, Ont

Festivités Folklorique de Valleyfield. 1964. Valleyfield, Que

Folk on the Rocks. 1980. Yellowknife, NWT

Hangashore Folk Festival. 1980. Prince Edward Park, near Corner Brook, NL

Heritage Foundation Folk Festival. 1984. Terra Nova National Park, NL

Hillside Festival. 1984. Guelph Lake Conservation Area, Guelph, Ont

Home County Music & Art Festival (formerly Home County Folk Festival). 1974. Victoria Park, London, Ont

Islands Folk Festival. 1985. Providence Farm, Duncan, BC

Jasper Heritage Folk Festival. 1984 (biennial). Centennial Park, Jasper, Alta

Live From The Rock Folk Festival. 2003. Red Rock, Ont

Une Longue Veillée. 1979. Cape St George, Port au Port Peninsula, NL

Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival. 1986. Lunenburg, NS

Folk Festivals M-Z

Mariposa Folk Festival. 1961. Tudhope Park, Orillia, Ont

Midsummer Festival. 1984. Smithers Fall Fair Grounds, Smithers, BC

Mill Race Festival of Traditional Folk Music. 1993. Cambridge, Ont

Miramichi Folksong Festival. 1958. Miramichi, NB

Mission Folk Music Festival. 1988. Fraser River Heritage Park, Mission, BC

Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival. 1977. Bannerman Park, St John's, NL

Northern Lights Festival Boréal. 1972. Bell Park, Ramsey Lake, Sudbury, Ont

Northwind Folk Festival. 1984 and 1985. Toronto Islands

Ottawa Folk Festival. 1994. Britannia Park, Ottawa

Pembina Valley Folk Festival. 1989. Near Baldur, Man

Peterborough Folk Festival. 1989. Peterborough, Ont

Prince George Coldsnap Festival (formerly Prince George Folk Festival). 2004. Prince George, BC

Princeton Traditional Music Festival. 2008. Princeton, BC

Regina Folk Festival. 1969. Victoria Park, Regina

Robson Valley Music Festival. 2005. Dunster, BC

Shelter Valley Folk Festival. 2004. Grafton, Ont

Songs of Sail/Chante de voile. 1989. Historic Naval and Military Establishments, Penetanguishene, Ont

South County Fair. 1987. Fish & Game Park, Fort Macleod, Alta

Stan Rogers Folk Festival. 1997. Canso, NS

Stein Valley Voices for the Wilderness Festival. 1985. Seabird Island, BC (Stein Valley, BC, 1985-9)

Summer Solstice. 1979-86. Current River Park, Thunder Bay, Ont

Summerfolk. 1976. Kelso Beach Park, Owen Sound, Ont

Toronto Folk Festival. 1980 only. Hanlan's Point and Harbourfront

Trout Forest Music Festival. 1996. Ear Falls, Ont

Vancouver Folk Music Festival. 1978. Jericho Beach Park, Vancouver

Vancouver Island MusicFest. 1995. Comox Valley, Vancouver Island, BC

Winnipeg Folk Festival. 1974. Birds Hill Provincial Park, near Winnipeg

Wye Marsh Wildlife Festival of Conservation and Art. 1986. Wye Marsh Conservation Centre, Midland, Ont


Further Reading

  • McGrath, Paul. "A summer celebration of folk music," Maclean's, 12 Jul 1982

    Rogers, Tim, ed. "Focus on festivals," Canadian Folk Music Bulletin, vol 16, Jul 1982

    - "Folk festivals: The second installment," Canadian Folk Music Bulletin, vol 17, Apr 1983

    Cristall, Gary. "The function of folk festivals," Canadian Folk Music Bulletin, vol 26, Mar 1992

    LeBlanc, Larry. "Folk festivals grow in Canada," Billboard, vol 115, Jun 2003

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