Stories & Visions

Edmonton Folk Music Festival puts down deep roots

Shared by Ken Davis Edmonton Folk Music Festival puts down deep roots Photo

I wasn't at the very first Edmonton Folk Music Festival held in the summer of 1980. No, my first experience came a few years later. On that occasion, I remember spending a couple of days under a crude plastic shelter while the heavens opened relentlessly and the temperature was cold enough to make your teeth chatter. It didn't seem to matter, however, because the vibe was magical and the music was fabulous.

I attended various renditions of EFMF in the years that followed, eventually joining the legions of folks who serve as Festival volunteers. I spent 8 years on the Festival's media crew, running all over the site linking artists to media people who wanted to interview them. Just writing this, memories flood back of all the wonderful people I met and sometimes even befriended - so many fellow volunteers, artists such as Miriam and Amadou, Steve Earle, Jim Cuddy, wonderful Festival organizers such as artistic director Terry Wickham, volunteer co-ordinator Vicki Fannon and the legendary production manager Don Snider.

One time I was in too much of a hurry while on assignment and ran around a corner behind main stage, only to almost bowl over Alison Krauss with her fiddle. If looks could kill... And I was there the night that lightning hit one of the sound towers near mainstage as k.d. lang was finishing her performance. And there was the year that I went to the volunteers after-party at the Edmonton Inn and, dead-tired at 4 in the morning, sat in a small room packed with people, listening to Alejandro Escovedo and his musical pals playing an amazing set of beautiful acoustic music.

EFMF was the one place and the one time where I could guarantee that I would see almost everyone I knew in Alberta at least once. Over the years, the Festival has evolved, no longer just an entertainment event but a giant community of connected people. I love that there are tens of thousands of us who share the same magical memories and who came to love the same extraordinary light and sound of the Festival on Gallagher Hill.

Edmonton Folk Music Festival puts down deep roots Photo


Shared by Naren G. 100 Festival Way, Sherwood Park, AB T8A 5T2, Canada Gnanashala Photo

My favourite Edmonton festival for the 2 last consecutive years is Gnanashala organized by Sanskriti Dance where we get to have the next generation of artists across Alberta to participate in 4 days conference for classical dance and music.

Gnanashala Photo

Fringe & Willow

Shared by Jen 7507 Borden Park Rd NW, Edmonton, AB T5B 4W8, Canada Fringe & Willow Photo

My favourite Edmonton art is the Vaulted Willow in Borden Park, and my favourite festival is The Fringe!

Fringe & Willow Photo

Heritage Fest, of course

Shared by Ben J Wari 9330 Groat Rd NW, Edmonton, AB T6G 2A8, Canada Heritage Fest, of course Photo

Heritage Fest, of course. That and finding random street art, seeing impromptu piano on the street sessions, and for the more formal, the big sculpture/mixed media installations at the AGA. Future : more use of public art and open performance spaces.

Heritage Fest, of course Photo

So many treasures...

Shared by Craig William Hawrelak Park, Edmonton, T5J 2R7 So many treasures... Photo

I've been very fortunate to have a number of friends and family involved in the Edmonton arts community... to experience the wonder of live performances in many of our fine facilities and peek behind the scenes to see how the magic happens.
From the auditory perfection of the Winspear to the natural simplicity of Symphony Under the Stars, the expansive Jubilee to tiniest Fringe stage, the intricate sets of the Shoctor Theatre to the lone street performer who captivates her audience – we don't realize how lucky we are... or how much we still have to enjoy.

So many treasures... Photo

From language learner to arts participant

Shared by K. Baron 9831 75 Street NW, Edmonton, AB T6A 2Y8, Canada From language learner to arts participant Photo

My family lost our ancestral language due to the assimilationist policies of the provincial government and the bigoted attitude of other Albertans in the mid-twentieth century. My father purposely forgot how to speak it, so I never learned as I child. As an adult I've been trying to recover this lost gateway to my culture. For this reason, my wife and I started taking курси (classes) at St. Andrew's, the last place left in the city that still offers adult evening classes in Ukrainian. My progress in the language wasn't great, but being part of that community led me to other discoveries in arts and culture. One of the instructors, Mr. Ludvik Marianych--one of Alberta's unsung cultural heroes--recruited my wife and I to be part of Чайка (Chaika) a youth orchestra that plays Ukrainian-language music. This was a big step because, although I could (barely) play the guitar I had never been part of a band (never mind an orchestra) and hadn't played in front of anyone in years. But Mr. Marianych made it seem totally possible that anyone could participate, even me: someone who could only bang out a few chords. The next thing I knew, not only was I the group's guitarist but I was volunteering to learn to play the mandolin as well, so we could add that instrument to the band. Mr. Marianych has the gift of making music accessible to everyone, and inspired me to believe I could do more.

From their I went on to singing with the Верховина (Verkhovyna) choir under the amazing Orest Soltykevych (of CKUA fame). I 'm not a natural singer--to put in mildly--but was again taken by the hand and told that anyone (even me) could sing. And not just sing, but sing both baritone and tenor, stay in tune with the choir, and do it all entirely in my third language, one that had only just started to learn (Ukrainian). Somehow I did it (or at least felt like I did).

The highlight of this cultural journey for me (so far) was appearing on the main stage during the "Svieto 25" celebration in Churchill Square in August of 2016, honouring the 25th anniversary of Ukrainian independence and 125 years of Ukrainian settlement in Canada. I was there twice: once to play with orchestra, and once to sing with the choir. It was something I wouldn't have thought possible just a few years earlier.

Since the birth of my second child, I've had step back from some of my commitments. But those years when I was actively participating in the arts were made much richer because of the involvement I did have: arts and culture made my life better. Soon, I hope, they will be doing the same for my children.

It matters that I learned that I could participate in the arts and culture through an ethnic community. That is not an accident. In our ethnic communities we find examples of true participatory culture: it's not about listening to or watching professionals. It's about having pride or curiosity enough that you to want to live out the community's traditions, whether they are part of your birthright or something you are learning along the way.

My vision for the arts in culture in Edmonton is that others will have a similar journey to my own: using one part of culture as ladder to reach for the next one, and being welcomed and included along the way. And I hope that the city as a whole can recognize the value of ethnic communities in that process. Having a thriving arts and culture scene should really mean that we have a cultural ecosystem that include niches for the ethnic arts.

And yes, I'm still working on that language! Language is the conduit through which the rest of culture flows. Any arts, culture, and heritage vision MUST include a language component or it is fundamentally incomplete.

From language learner to arts participant Photo

Dance for anybody, any body

Shared by Michelle K 11805 94 Street Northwest, Edmonton Dance for anybody, any body Photo
Watch Video

There’s a community of dancers here. A community which has become a family over time. A family full of support and creativity and acceptance regardless of any differences. A group of open arms, open minds, and open hearts; and the beautiful movement of dance binds them.

Dance for anybody, any body Photo

Fringe as Community

Shared by Matthew Ward ATB Financial Arts Barns building, 10330 84 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 2G9, Canada Fringe as Community Photo

Seeing the Fringe Festival grow and become more inclusive over the past 8 years that I've attended, I'm really excited about how these spaces in community can become places for everyone. On-going support of local theatre and performance art created by and for diverse members of Treaty 6 territory will be integral to the continuity of a thriving arts scene in Edmonton.

Fringe as Community Photo

Nuit Blanche

Shared by Susan Burns Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton, AB T5J 2E5, Canada Nuit Blanche Photo

This magical night in downtown in late September 2015 brought thousands of citizens together to celebrate the power of art to build community and to have fun in the dark and the cold. Let’s keep it going!

Nuit Blanche Photo

My First Heritage Festival

Shared by Jim Gibbon 9330 Groat Road, Edmonton, AB T6G 2A8 My First Heritage Festival Photo

My first Edmonton Heritage Festival visit was life changing.

I remember visiting the Portugal Pavilion and I remember a barbecued sardine on a stick. I spent the remainder of the day visiting the world in Hawrelak park.

And I remember marveling at our little city on the prairies.

My First Heritage Festival Photo

My first Heritage Days

Shared by Stephen M Williams 9330 Groat Road, Edmonton, AB T6G 2A8 My first Heritage Days Photo

As a University of Alberta student in the early 90's I was living on campus, and stayed for the summer. Edmonton opened itself to me as a place that was not just a grey and white winter landscape. The green hues of the mid-summer led to biking and walking around the river valley.

One of those weekends I stumbled upon the Heritage Days festival and was stunned at the variety of different people, food, dance and craft that was on display. I spent much of that weekend walking down from the U of A campus to just hang out and absorb.

One of my lasting memories of Edmonton... arguably that was when I started to be a nascent "Edmontonian" after several years of just visiting for school.

My first Heritage Days Photo

An A-meowzing Festival!

Shared by Linda 11762 106 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5G 2R1, Canada An A-meowzing Festival! Photo

I was PURR-oud to help bring to Edmonton its first-ever cat festival in 2014. This festival celebrates cats, cat people, and cat culture, while raising money for local cat rescues. There are cat-themed presentations, activities, local vendors, crafts, videos, photo contests, adoptable & show cats, and so meow-ch more. Over 3,000 people attended the last festival in 2017, which I felt clearly showed the importance of having niche festivals and gatherings in the city. I hope there are more of these special festivals (not just cat-related!) that appeal to specific interests taking place in Edmonton in the future. Although the fest has since moved away from the location listed here, we had three very a-meowzing years in this spot and I hope the festival was and continues to be as meaningful to all its attendees as it has been for me.

Tags Festival
An A-meowzing Festival! Photo
2029 Arts and Heritage logo

To receive updates on important YEG Culture Map developments, and more opportunities to be involved, please enter your email address and name (optional) below.

Please note: You may opt out of this email program at any time.