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Photo by Daman Singh

There’s something magical about Calgary’s Folk Festival

By Francesca Schoettler, August 6 2023—

Every year, just like clockwork, Prince’s Island Park becomes decorated with tarps, lawn chairs, local vendors, tote bags and colourful fits. However, the thousands of Calgarians and tourists that crowd the park at the end of July don’t come just for the food — although the mango lassi is pretty good — they come for the music.

The Calgary Folk Music Festival is a much-anticipated annual event, going on its 44th year. With the dedicated efforts of 2,000 community volunteers, the festival runs like a well-oiled machine. The festival has become a destination event, earning its reputation as the perfect musical island escape, as over 53,000 attendees come together to celebrate the power of music and culture. This year’s festival featured 70 artists performing on five daytime and two evening stages. Amythyst Kiah, Colleen Brown and Major Love, dumama + kechou, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Kalascima feat. Andrea Ramolo, The Paper Kites, Tea Fannie and The Wood Brothers were just a few of the artists in the 2023 line-up.

Folk Festival is much more than just a series of performances; it’s an immersive experience where artists and listeners alike come together to celebrate the heart and soul of folk. This collaborative atmosphere fosters a sense of unity and camaraderie. Musicians share not only their songs but also the stories behind them. The rawness expressed through their music is openly received and celebrated as we reflect on what it means not just to live but to be alive.

Throughout the weekend, attendees immersed themselves in a wide range of musical genres, from traditional folk tunes to multi-lingual Afro-Cuban pop, ensuring that there is something to suit every taste. 

Photo by Daman Singh

What I love the most about Folk Festival is its community. How thousands of strangers unite because of a common interest, an art that allows us to express the things we don’t know how to say through sound. It doesn’t matter whether that sound is a jam band bluegrass mash-up, nomadic future folk, or bouncing funk — it serves the same purpose. Folk Festival makes it easy to open up and connect with the people around us, reminding us of how little it takes to be kind. 

The Calgary Folk Music Festival is an enchanting blend of music, culture and community. It is a celebration of diversity and unity, where the city comes together to share their stories and bear their hearts. If you didn’t attend this year, I recommend that you check the festival out next summer — I’m confident that you won’t leave disappointed.

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