Folk Fest. Ah, sweet, lovely folk fest. How is it possible that I have overlooked it before this summer? I have heard rumblings since the summer of 2006 (our first summer here) about how great it is. I think I would have gone to see David Gray the first summer, but was for sure far out of the ticket buying loop and missed out. I still remember Alyssa's story about sitting outside the grounds and listening to DG.
So what exactly is it that is so great about folk fest? It is the perfect combination of music, venue, people, food and drink. More specifically this year, Ben Harper, sweet Dallas by my side (not to mention the countless other friends on the hill) and mini doughnuts. I don't know if the sound has always been as good, but 31 years has certainly given the organizers time to perfect it. I was beside myself with excitement when the initial announcement came across the internets that my favourite BH would be headlining Thursday night. And Van Morrison for the endowment concert on Wednesday? We were in.
For those not from Edmonton, just to give you an idea of how popular this 4 day folk extravaganza is, the weekend wristbands sold out in hours, I think. This is the perfect setting to enjoy Edmonton in the summer - lush river valley, sunshine, etc. Everyone seemed to be pretty relaxed and everyone wants to have a good time. And kids are free (to get into the festival)...not that we have kids, but I find this marvelous! When we were kids my parents took us to concerts frequently, many of them outdoor music festivals. I remember these times fondly and wished the same on all the littles I saw roaming the grounds, trying to collect plates to be redeemed for $2 a piece.
From what I understand, there are some folks who have volunteered at the folk fest for years, even decades. This festival has a dedicated following. This sense of enjoyment and commitment fosters a sense of community, I think, and even as a first time "folkie" I couldn't help to feel the love. Cheesy? Maybe, but it is certainly an experience. If I could do the last 4 years in Edmonton over again, I would make a point to have gone to folk fest each summer. I could also see us returning in future years around folk fest time because summer really is the best time to visit Edmonton (you know, when it's not -40C).
A little bit more on this year's fest, even though we only attended the beginning. Van Morrison played for the Wednesday night endowment fund concert. Was our first FF experience - I was floored when I walked through the top gates and looked down on "the hill" of Gallagher Park - people, tents, tarps, tarp markers, good times all around. To be quite honest, Van Morrison was...underwhelming. There is no denying that he is a fantastic and very talented musician, but he is certainly not a performer. However, we had lots of fun hanging out with our friends and enjoying the good vibes. Thursday night solidified my new love of folk fest. The beer garden was open, we ate dinner at the fest (pulled chicken on a bun from Homefire Grill - delicious!), ate mini donuts, and saw Ben Harper! He puts on a great show, and I'm convinced he was feeling the love that we were all sending his way.
So if you're thinking of planning a trip to Edmonton, I would recommend next summer (and every summer thereafter), for Folk Fest. Perhaps we can share a tarp?