It’s hard to believe that the folk festival genre hasn’t really been around all that long. Today you can enjoy a summer folk festival in every part of the world from Newport to Reykjavik. One of the longer running folk festivals is the classic and all-Canadian Mariposa, which first appeared in 1961 in small town Orillia, Ontario and has since been hosted in locations across the province, including the Toronto Islands from 1968 to 1979. Over the years most of Canada’s musical legends have graced its stages – Gordon Lightfoot, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Leonard Cohen, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to name just a few. Not the least of its merits has been providing opportunities for accomplished roots, indigenous and young musicians to touch and entertain us.
The Peterborough Folk Festival follows in the footsteps of this grande dame. In its 23 year history, PFF has featured artists Murray McLauchlan, Ian Tamblyn, Kathleen Edwards, and the late great Daisy DeBolt, who taught me to love the acordian, as well as local stars like Jimmy Bowskill and Royal Wood. Check out some past performances on the PFF YouTube channel »
Its Emerging Artist Award has helped to launch the careers of Serena Ryder, Melissa Payne, Seán Conway and Missy Knott. This year, winner Jos Fortin opens for Whitehorse (Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland) at the Market Hall kickoff.
2012 also marks the last year with artistic direcctor and local impresario Candace Shaw at the helm. She has kept the festival true to its roots by focusing on the real deals, the undiscovered delights, the local gems, the community spirit rather than the headliners.
There are children’s activities throughout the weekend and on Sunday, workshops in Millenium Park on everything from West African Dance to beginner’s ukelele, a fiddle jam with the brilliant Michael Ketemer, and my favourite, a musical petting zoo – this is your chance to get up close and personal with all kinds of musical instruments you always wanted to test drive.
On August 25th, I will be riding my bike over the London Street Bridge and flopping on the hillside by the Nicholls Oval to bask in that timeless space that a folk festival creates. Kids will roll down the hill, people and dogs will stroll and ride bikes on the trails near the stage, oldsters and youngsters will dance on the grass, vendors will sell some quality wares (don’t miss Spark Box, Jackson Creek Press, Earth Tones Studio). I’ll probably have an Island Cream roti and an organic iced coffee from Kyoto Coffee. And I’ll get to hear exceptional live music including some of my favourite local bands – Tin Vespers, The Burgess Shale, The Resolutionaries Marimba Band, and a Curtis Driedger incarnation in The D’oh See Dough Boyz – for free!
A folk festival is so much more than a concert event – it’s a community experience. There’s a spirit of discovery and generosity woven into it. Brendan Mroz’s posters from the last 3 years sum up visually what a sweet and soulful folk festival we have here in Peterborough. I hope it will always stay that way.
August 24-26, 2012