Edmonton, Alberta is host to dozens of annual festivals. There are so many festivals going on year-round that you often have to pick which one you want to go to while you miss two others. A small number of these festivals can be tossed into the “Yeah, Whatever” category, but the majority of them are world-class, attracting huge name performers and massive crowds of people. When I moved from Edmonton back to Regina in 2004, I knew I was coming back to a smaller pond. Less to do, overall, and definitely fewer festivals than Edmonton. I decided not to look at this as a bad thing, though. Rather, I decided I’d make it to as many of the few festivals Regina has to offer as possible. Before I left Regina area in 2001, the Regina Folk Festival was pretty cool, but not really a huge deal in my eyes. When I came back, I didn’t realize it had transformed into an amazing, big and very fun event attracting big-name stars from across the country and the world.
I’ve been going to the Regina Folk Festival every year, since moving back – at times even skipping out on work to catch a performance in the park – and I’ve loved every minute of it. Even when getting rained on.
Here’s a quick look at this year’s festival, through my eyes…
My day: Rushed home after work, cleaned up, loaded up my festival gear (camera bag, small blanket) and headed out. Only had to wait in line for 10-15 minutes, then found myself a sweet little spot sitting front and center!
Who I came to see: Andrew Bird, Fred Penner
Who blew me away: Shotgun Jimmie – great fun; Etran Finatawa – sounded totally unlike anything else at the festival
Highlights: So many people with smiles on their faces. Bumped into a few people I know. Andrew Bird was just about as strange as I’d pictured him. Overall, it was a great night and perfect way to end the work week.
Best part of the night: Getting my picture taken with Fred Penner!
My day: Got to the park around 12:15 and bummed around the market for a while, window-shopping before meeting up with a friend at 1:00. Got some delicious food from Spices of Punjab, sat near Sunlit Stage 1 where Jeffery Straker, Shotgun Jimmie and others were having a blast playing and sharing stories. Things were going fine until it rained – a lot. My friend got called in to work (at Copper Kettle, right beside the park), so I continued about the day, underneath my umbrella, wandering around the market some more, listening to more performances and workshops. Bumped into Dan Mangan and said “Hi.” He was just checking out one of the performances. From 4:00 to 5:00, I hung out at the CJTR tent, where we wrapped up our first ever live broadcast by interviewing Secret Sisters. I didn’t do the interviewing, but I still got them to sign my copy of their record afterward. 🙂 After that, I lined up and hit the main stage for an unforgettable night – including the downpour of rain.
Who I came to see: Taj Mahal, Dan Mangan
Who blew me away: Shakura S’Aida – what a powerhouse performer! She was incredible!
Highlights: Taj Mahal was performing just a few meters in front of me!!! Secret Sisters were a great unexpected treat.
Best part of the night: Northern lights dancing over the stage with shooting stars right before legend Taj Mahal takes the stage. Absolutely incredible experience!
My day: I got downtown late (close to 1:00). Met up with some friends, caught some performances together before they had to leave, then hung out at another friend’s tent in the arts market for a while. Topped of the day with some shopping in the market. Bought some gifts and some treats, then hit the enormous line for the main stage, got in, planted myself at front and center again and prepared to be wowed for the final night.
Who I came to see: Coeur de Pirate
Who blew me away: The Sojourners, Aurelio Martinez, Hawksley Workman
Highlights: I had to run to the Cornall Centre for film from Shopper’s Drug Mart and on the way, I caught some of a high-energy performance by Hey Ocean!. What a fantastically fun band!
Best part of the night: Fred Penner hosted on Sunday. He captivates the audience and brings smiles to so many faces while being authoritative, telling us to make sure and clean up the site before we leave because “Uncle Fred says.” I heard more than one person say he stole the show.