By Liam Prost
South Country Fair
It’s a festival with camping so sought after, folks volunteer half hours AND pay for a ticket, just for the privilege of priority camping. If you’ve got bug spray in hand and some dry shampoo, you can make this a weekend to remember. It’s as much a community event as a music festival, so in addition to artists like Winnipeg raconteur William Prince, Edmonton blues kid Joe Nolan & the Dogs, and Calgary’s Wonder Woman Mariel Buckley, there’s circus acts, artisans, and spoken word.
Edmonton Folk Music Festival
It’s all about the main stage. With a natural amphitheatre in the heart of Edmonton, their folk fest fits quite a few more than Calgary’s. Tarp culture is strong, and their convoluted-but-charming baseball diamond ticket sale proves it. It’s a beautiful site with tons of sun, friends, and opportunities to see music. The site is so big, you have to plan ahead, but there are tons of amazing artists this year including The Decemberists, Shakey Graves, Rhiannon Giddens, and Leon Bridges, and that’s just the mainstage.
Winnipeg Folk Music Festival
You must leave Winnipeg a bit to get to this one, but the bus trip is well worth it, and you might make some friends along the way. Like Winnipeg itself, it’s a little freaky. Indies like The Shins and Feist share the mainstage with the folkies like Bruce Cockburn, and because they aren’t worried about ticking off urban neighbors, they go late with dance acts at the end of the night like DakhaBrakha and Mbongwana Star. Daytime stages are a beautiful tree-lined walk from each other, and the food is pretty special. There’s so much space at WFMF, it’s the perfect festival for the introvert in all of us.
Wild Mountain Festival
Wild Mountain is small but mighty. Taking place at the Entrance Ranch north of Hinton, Alberta, it sits in the part of the foothills that’s mostly only frequented by Edmontonians. It’s a camping festival much akin to its northerly neighbor North Country Fair. What sets it apart is its loudness. This year it features some of the biggest guitarists north of the 49th parallel including blues legend David Wilcox, Can-Rock veterans 54-40, the man with the voice Matt Andersen, and The Guess Who’s own Randy Bachman.
Somehow, they turn a small town into a bustling hub of art and music. Everyone is involved, and I mean everyone. Wells B.C. becomes a hippie haven, hosting music, visual, and artisanal offerings from across Canada. People’s houses and public squares become stages for artists like Corin Raymond, Oh Susanna, Rae Spoon, and Wax Mannequin.
You might know the area better by its association with the beat-fueled party-fest Shambhala. Tiny Lights is a vastly under represented community festival in a beautiful space full of amazing artists, a lot of which you won’t see at other folk fests this summer. Check out husband and wife troubadours Pharis and Jason Romero, as well as full bands like Edmonton’s Post Script and Scenic Route to Alaska.
Canmore Folk Music Festival
There’s no alcohol on site, except at the notorious pub stage, so this festival is all about the music. Downtown Canmore is a perfect host, any songwriter gains gravitas with Mount Rundle looming in the background. This year sees folkie favorites like Whitehorse and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings next to crowd pleasers like The Steel Wheels and Birds of Chicago. It’s the most relaxing Folk Fest of them all, and there’s some great community support, including some unofficial house concerts featuring locals.
ArtsWells, Canmore Folk Music Festival, Edmonton Folk Music Festival, South Country Fair, Tiny Lights, Wild Mountain Festival, Winnipeg Folk Music Festival