Your guide to the 2017 Calgary Folk Music Festival

By Shane Flug

With 40,000 to 50,000 attendees every year and a volunteer army of 1,800 strong making it possible, the Calgary Folk Music Festival turns Prince’s Island Park into a musical family gathering every summer. Here’s how to make the best of the fest July 27 to 30. [Photo credit: Lynne Hawrelko. Photo courtesy Calgary Folk Music Festival]

Your guide to the 2017 Calgary Folk Music Festival

Set up home base

Attendees at a typical folk festival are frequently nicknamed two ways: as “tarpies” (those who sit) and “standees” (those who dance) – but in reality, veteran folkies play both roles seamlessly.

Nonetheless, make life easy by bringing a tarp to the main stage with small lawn chairs. Tarps can be no larger than 6’ x 8’ and are allowed in on a first come, first serve basis. Claim your spot early so you’ll have somewhere to sit and relax between checking out everything on the island and dancing with friends old and new. Prepare for hot days with coolers full of water, snacks, lunches, sunscreen and a change of clothes.

For those craving some local grub and suds, grab a craft beer (or wine or sangria) at the Big Rock Beer Garden, chow down on a burrito from BentoBurrito or cool off with some Fiasco Gelato at the food concessions.

Soak in the music

With 70 artists across all genres spanning six stages in addition to the mainstage, it can feel a bit daunting figuring out where to start. Fortunately, you can download the festival’s mobile app to browse all of this year’s artists and showtimes, hear the artist Spotify sample playlist and build your own custom schedule to plan your experience.

While the mainstage headliners are just the tip of the iceberg, “the odds are that we will probably be alright” to raves for this solid lineup. From Thursday through Sunday respectively, don’t miss British/American “odd couple” Billy Bragg + Joe Henry, Dallas Green solo project City and Colour, longtime don’t-stop-having-fun-at-work troupe Barenaked Ladies and legendary country-rock sextet Blue Rodeo.

Other highlights include hometown synth-pop heroes Ghostkeeper (Saturday, Stage 2), U.K. Americana songstress Yola Carter (Sunday, mainstage) and the woman who brought Inuk throat singing mainstream: Tanya Tagaq (Saturday, Stage 4). For those in an experimental/electronica mood, check out A Tribe Called Red’s DJ Shub (Friday, Stage 4). Don't forget to check out the festival’s famous workshops, where performing artists band together and perform songs and covers based on a genre or theme.

Family fun

All ages are welcome at Folk Fest and there’s plenty of fun planned at the weekend Family Zone. Have your little folkies jump in the bouncy castle and slide, blow bubbles or delve into new worlds with a storybook from the Calgary Public Library Book Truck.

Clown around with performances from the Hula Hoop Circus and sing along with local kids’ music duo Rattle and Strum. Or, grab the skateboard and safety gear and get a little hang time on the half pipe (parental supervision and consent form required for those under 16).

Support artisans

Folk Fest hosts approximately 25 artist vendors who sell their handcrafted labours of love to folkies. Bring cash in case a vendor has no Interac and take home a piece of wearable music with guitar-string jewelry from HeartStrings Jewelry or grab your tot a new pair of wool booties at Nooks Design.

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Discover more ways to have fun in and around Calgary:

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Get involved

With 1,800 volunteers “on-site doing everything from slinging beers to rolling backline around,” said festival rentals manager Liam Prost, what makes Folk Fest “Folk Fest” is the community spirit of its volunteers who have made lifelong friends and even met spouses. “It's a huge community and one of the most dedicated and inspiring groups I've ever had the pleasure of being a part of,” Prost said. Check out their website for volunteer opportunities.

Whether you come for more traditional acts like Lindi Ortega or seek artists who blend genres such as Melvin Gibbs Magnum, Folk Fest has something for everyone. However you spend the fest, you’re among folkie family.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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